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Boys and girls from Thackeray by Kate Dickinson Sweetser

Part 6 out of 6

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gentleness and innocence about her which was very touching, and which the
two young men did not fail to remark.

"You are very late, miss!" cried Mrs. Gann, who affected not to know what
had caused her daughter's delay. "You are always late!" and the elder
girls stared and grinned at each other knowingly, as they always did when
mamma made such attacks upon Caroline, who only kept her eyes down upon
the table-cloth, and began to eat her dinner without saying a word.

"Come, come, my dear," cried honest Gann, "if she _is_ late, you know
why! Our Carrie has been downstairs making the pudding for her old pappy;
and a good pudding she makes, I can tell you!"

Miss Caroline blushed more deeply than ever; Mr. Fitch stared her full in
the face; Mrs. Gann said "Nonsense!" and "Stuff!" very majestically; Mr.
Brandon alone interposed in Caroline's favour; and the words that he said
were so kindly, so inspiring to Caroline that she cared not a straw
whatever else might be said about her. "Mamma may say what she pleases
to-day," thought Caroline. "I am too happy to be made angry by her."

But poor little mistaken Caroline did not know how soon her feelings were
to be harassed again beyond endurance. The dinner had not advanced much
further, when Miss Isabella, who had been examining Caroline curiously
for some time, telegraphed across the table to Miss Linda, and nodded
and winked, and pointed to her own neck, on which was a smart necklace of
the lightest blue glass beads finishing in a neat tassel. Linda had a
similar ornament of a vermilion colour, whereas Caroline wore a handsome
new collar and a brooch, which looked all the smarter for the shabby
frock over which they were placed. As soon as she saw her sister's
signals the poor little thing blushed deeply again; down went her eyes
once more, and her face and neck lighted up to the colour of Miss Linda's
sham cornelian.

"What's the gals giggling and oggling about?" asked Mr. Gann innocently.

"What is it, my darling love?" asked stately Mrs. Gann.

"Why, don't you see, Ma?" said Linda. "Look at Miss Carrie! I'm blessed
if she hasn't got on Becky's collar and brooch, that Sims the pilot
gave her!"

The young ladies fell back in uproarious fits of laughter, and laughed
all the time that their mamma was declaring her daughter's conduct
unworthy a gentlewoman, and bidding her leave the room and take off those
disgraceful ornaments.

There was no need to tell her; the poor little thing gave one piteous
look at her father, who was whistling, and seemed indeed to think the
matter a good joke; and after she had managed to open the door down she
went to the kitchen, and when she reached that humble place of refuge
first pulled off Becky's collar and brooch, and then flung herself into
the arms of that honest maid, where she cried and cried till she brought
on the first fit of hysterics that ever she had had.

This crying could not at first be heard in the parlour, where the company
were roaring at the excellence of the joke, but presently the laughter
died away, and the sound of weeping came from the kitchen below. This the
young artist could not bear, but bounced up from his chair and rushed
out of the room, exclaiming, "By Jove, it's too bad!"

From the scene of merriment he rushed forth and out of the house into the
dark, wet streets, fired with one impulse, inspired by one purpose:--to
resist the tyranny of Mrs. Gann towards poor Caroline; to protect the
gentle girl from the injustice of which she was the victim. All his
sympathies from that moment were awakened in Caroline's favour.

As for Mr. Brandon, whom Caroline in the depths of her little silly heart
had set down for the wondrous fairy prince who was to deliver her from
her present miserable condition, he was a man to whom opposition acted
ever as a spur. Up to this time he had given little or no thought to the
young girl with the pale face and quiet manner, but now he was amused,
and his interest was awakened by the indignation of Mr. Fitch. He was
piqued also by the system of indifference to his charms indulged in by
Caroline's older sisters, and determined to revenge himself upon them for
their hardness of heart by devotion to Caroline. As he wrote in a letter
that very day: "I am determined through a third daughter, a family
Cinderella, to make her sisters _quiver_ with envy. I merely mean fun,
for Cinderella is but a little child.... I wish I had paper enough to
write you an account of a Gann dinner at which I have just assisted, and
of a scene which there took place; and how Cinderella was dressed out,
not by a fairy, but by a charitable kitchen maid, and was turned out of
the room by her indignant mamma for appearing in the maid's finery...."

This, and much more, Mr. Brandon, who at once turned his attention to
being excessively kind and polite to our humble Cinderella. Caroline,
being a most romantic little girl, and having read many novels, depicted
Brandon in a fancy costume such as her favourite hero wore, or fancied
herself as the heroine, watching her knight go forth to battle. Silly
fancies, no doubt; but consider the poor girl's age and education; the
only instruction she had ever received was from these tender,
kind-hearted, silly books; the only happiness which fate had allowed her
was in this little silent world of fancy. It would be hard to grudge the
poor thing her dreams; and many such did she have, and tell blushingly to
honest Becky as they sat by the kitchen fire, while indignation was
growing apace in the breasts of her mother and sisters at the sight of so
much interest centred on so poor an object. And even so did the haughty
sisters of Cinderella the First feel and act.

But Cinderella's kitchen days were fast drawing to an end, even as she, a
pale slip of a girl, was budding into womanhood.

One evening Mrs. Gann and the Misses McCarty had the honour of
entertaining Mr. Swigby at tea, and that gentleman, in return for the
courtesy shown him by Mrs. Gann, invited the young ladies and their mamma
to drive with him the next day into the country; for which excursion he
had hired a very smart barouche. The invitation was not declined, and Mr.
Fitch, too, was asked, and accepted with the utmost delight. "Me and
Swigby will go on the box," said Gann. "You four ladies and Mr. Fitch
shall go inside. Carrie must go between; but she ain't very big."

"Carrie, indeed, will stop at home!" said her mamma. At this poor Fitch's
jaw fell; he had agreed to accompany the party only for the pleasure of
being in the company of little Caroline, nor could he escape now, having
just accepted so eagerly.

"Oh, don't let's have that proud Brandon!" exclaimed the young ladies, in
consequence of which that gentleman was not invited to join the

The day was bright and sunshiny. Poor Caroline, watching the barouche
and its load drive off, felt that it would have been pleasant to have
been a lady for once, and to have driven along in a carriage with
prancing horses. The girl's heart was heavy with disappointment and
loneliness as she stood at the parlour window, watching the vehicle
disappear from sight.

Oh, mighty Fate, that over us miserable mortals rulest supreme, with
what small means are thy ends effected! With what scornful ease and
mean instruments does it please thee to govern mankind! Mr. Fitch
accompanied the Gann family on their drive to the country; Mr. Brandon
remained behind.

Caroline, too, the Cinderella of this little tale, was left at home; and
thereby were placed in the hand of Fate all necessary instruments of
revenge to be used in the punishment of Mrs. Gann and the Misses McCarty
for their ill-treatment of our little Cinderella.

The story of Caroline Brandenburg Gann's youth is told. The fairy prince
is at hand, and the short chapter of girlhood and misery is finished.

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