Jean Nicolas Bouilly.

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or point out to me the consequences of what I
had only thought of, as it regarded the present
moment. That is the use of having elder friends,
my sister would say, for they have had long expe-
rience of life, and may have tried those very
schemes which we so eagerly pursue, and have


discovered the folly of them. My eldest sister, I
believe, was a very good girl ; she was always
with mamma, and they seemed to consult each
other upon all occasions.

But to return to the school. The young ladies
said they disliked weekly boarders, for the reason
I have given. I do not know how it was that
they seemed so delighted with some day-scholars
that our governess received into the school. If
they had to complain of a tell-tale before, I am
sure there were many more now. All the stories
that you can think of, were brought to us about
people in the town people that I did not even
know the names of, though I had lived there all
my life : we had histories of their private affairs,
and things that it seemed to me we had nothing
to do with. I suppose when these girls returned
home, they mentioned all that passed among us ;
at least, I conclude if they talked one way, they
would another.

At first, I did not at all relish these gossippincr
stories ; but by degrees I began to listen to them,
and occasionally to repeat them at home. Mamma
seemed quite grieved that they should have afford-
ed me any interest, and asked me what improve*
ment it was to my mind to hear of ray neighbors'


affairs. 1 acknowledged that I found none ; and
that it only made me look about at church, to see
where Mrs. Such-an-one sat, and what Miss So-
and- so had on.

My dear mamma shook her head, and seem-
ed to be seriously thinking what she should do
to avert the evil. I heard her saying to my
sister that she believed it would be necessary to
remove me from Mrs. G.'s, and that she should
exceedingly regret sending me farther from home,
but she saw no alternative. When I heard this,
I entreated that [ might not be sent away, and
promised that I would make no more acquaint-
ance with the day-scholars. This resolution I
kept for some time, but as my school-fellows all
acted differently, they seemed much annoyed at
my conduct. However, I preferred obeying my
mamma, to seeking favor from any of them.

About this time, we had a new teacher, named
Miss Pike, who seemed good-natured, and quickly
ingratiated herself with the girls. She had her
favorites though, and I was not one of them ; for
she did not approve of what she called my hold-
ing myself so high. I think she seemed to wish
to procure supreme authority over us, and to set
aside our regard for the other teachers. This


she could not do with me, because I was very
fond of Mademoiselle Jnillet, the French govern-
ess, at whom she was always laughing. We had
not much to do with the lady at the head of the
establishment, for though she took care to have
our comforts well attended to, and heard, at stated
times, all the classes in turn, that she might
ascertain our improvement, yet she chiefly left
the management of the school to the teachers.
They had their favorites, as I have said ; and had
it not been that I pitied Mademoiselle Juillet, and
we made common cause together, I think I should
have had no friend at all there. They all said I
had a very unsociable disposition, which I hope
you will not find, for I am sure they were wrong.

To continue my narrative. Unfortunately for
me, it happened just at this time, that my eldest
sister was in very poor health, and change of air
was prescribed both for her and mamma, who had
been in close attendance upon her. They were
absent for several months ; and though I returned
home every week, as usual, to see dear papa, who
was always very kind, yet it was a different thing ;
he could not enter into my childish troubles, or
give me advice, like mamma and my sister.

In the course of that half-year, a great many


gipseys came into our neighborhood. I was very
desirous of seeing them, as I had heard a great
deal about their curious habits and manners - T how
they lived in tents, and not in houses, and trav-
elled about from one place to another, having no
settled habitation. I had heard, too, that they
spoke a strange language, and ate beasts that
had died of themselves, and that they gained
their living by lying and stealing. Mamma used
to say, when she told me about them, that she
thought they needed a missionary as much as the
heathen ; and my sister went sometimes to talk
to them : she found them so ignorant that scarcely
one could read, which prevented her from pursu-
ing her favorite plan of giving tracts. They
would have been of no use to these poor women,
who could not make out a word. My sister said
they were such intelligent creatures that she
liked to talk to them ; they seemed, she observed,
as if their wits were always sharpened and ready
for use ; for often they would make such clever
answers to what was said, that she was quite

Having heard all this, I was, as you may sup-
pose, quite curious to see them ; for being at
school when my sister went to the gipsey camp,


I had hitherto no opportunity. When I saw some
walking about in the neighborhood, I began to
tell my school-fellows all I knew about them.
The young ladies seemed surprised that my sister
should have gone to talk to them ; for they said
gipseys were very dangerous people, and had the
power of foretelling what was to happen. I re-
membered my sister had told me about their pre-
tending to do this; but she said that only the
Spirit of God could reveal future events, and he
would not give the power to poor ignorant, sinful
creatures like these. So I had thought no more
about it, until the young ladies at Mrs. G.'s began
to relate such strange things, that I could not
help listening to them.

Miss V. said her mamma knew a lady that
went to have her fortune told, just before she was
married, and that the gipsey said she should have
six children ; but if the sixth was a boy, she
should die directly after it was born. She lived
very happily, except that she used to think a great
deal of what the gipsey said ; particularly when
she had had five children. Still she hoped the
prediction would prove untrue, for it was a long
time before she had her sixth child. It was a
boy ! and the moment she knew it, she ex-


claimed, " Then 1 must die !" and in an instant

When I heard this story, I said I knew what
my mother would say to it, that the death of
the poor lady was the effect of fear on her mind ;
but all the girls silenced me directly, by asking,
" How could the gipsey tell she would have six
children ?"

" Why," said I, " you know she only said if
she had six, and if the sixth was a boy, she
would die; so she spoke at random, and there
was no foretelling in the case."

" O, nonsense," they said, " you are afraid to
believe it, and so you contradict the story."

" Now," said Miss N., " I will tell you some-
thing that cannot be contradicted. My cousin,

Miss , went with a party of friends to have

their fortunes told. She was engaged to be mar-
ried to a gentleman in the neighborhood, though
that circumstance was not known to the gipsey.
The gipsey looked at her, and said, ' You are not
to be married to the person you now think of, but
to another gentlemen, that you have not yet seen ;
you shall meet him at a ball at , and not

* A fact.


long after you shall become his wife.' She then
described some peculiarities of person and address,
which could not. be mistaken. My cousin was at
first much vexed, for I believe she liked Mr. Y.
very much ; but I suppose she was afraid to do
any thing contrary to her fate, so she broke off
the engagement. Soon after, at the very place
and time, she met the other gentleman, and ere
long she married him. Now, said she, you can-
not contradict this, for I know all the facts."

" So you may," said I ; " but how do you
know that the other gentleman did not bribe the
gipsey to say what she did, that it might influence
the lady's mind in his favor?"

" Well ! I would not be so unbelieving for any
thing, they said ; and some of these days you
may be convinced yourself, by having your own
fortune told."

" No, that I never will !" I said, in too hasty
and presumptuous a manner. I thought then it
would be impossible. I was too much like the
man we read of in Scripture, who (when the
prophet was weeping at the calamities which he
foresaw would, through his means, come upon
Israel) exclaimed, "Is thy servant a dog, that he
should do this thing?" Alas! I felt as sure of




myself, and as proud in my own strength, which
I have since found is perfect weakness. When
I turned from my companions, it was with a feel-
ing of my own superiority. I thought how much
better I had been educated, and how impossible
it was for me to believe the folly that seemed to
influence their minds. I know it was quite right
to entertain a persuasion of its being folly, and
that I had reason to be grateful to my dear mamma
and sister, for giving me more rational views ;
but it was very wrong to indulge such pride,
which must be afterwards humbled. If I had
then (as my sister afterwards told me) prayed to
God to deliver me from evil, because I could not
deliver myself, I should have been preserved in
the hour of temptation. I hope my example will
prove a warning to others. *

I thought no more about the gipseys for some
time, till one day, when several of us were taking
a Walk with two of the teachers, at a distance
from home, we came suddenly to a common,
where we saw tents. The girls exclaimed, in
great delight, " Oh, the gipseys! we must go
and speak to them. May we go, Miss Earl ?
May we go, Miss Pike ?" At first, they objected ;


,it as they were excessively importuned, they
ould not refuse.

Presently, we heard " Tell your fortunes, la-

ies ?" and two or three tall, black-eyed crea-

ares, in tattered red cloaks, came near us. I

irunk from them, and went to talk to some

retty gipsey children, that were playing about ;

ley were the most entertaining little things, and

iey looked with such wonder at all I had on,

nd asked me very funny questions. In the mean

ime I heard peals of laughter coming from the

Troup near the tent, and I saw some of the young

adies beckoning me to come to them. At first

I would not, but a special messenger was sent to

bring me, and to say that I should lose such fun

if I did not join them.

Do come and hear them talk ; that cannot
do you any harm, surely they speak such an
odd language, and seem so different to all other

Then I left the little children and went with
my companions ; and when the others saw me
coming, they were very glad indeed. They be-
gan telling me how Miss Earl had had her fortune
told, and that she was to die an old maid, but
very rich ; and that Miss Pike was to marry a



fine gentleman a great deal older than herself, '
who was to come from beyond seas. I do not
remember what were to be the fortunes of each
of the little misses who had " crossed the gipsey's
hand with silver," as they called it, though all j
were repeated to me with great glee. I persisted !
that these poor ignorant women could not know
any thing of what would happen to us ; but my
opinion was flatly contradicted, for they said, ;
" If you knew how wonderfully she had told me
about circumstances at home, that sne could not
have known !" I continued incredulous, when
another of the women, advancing from the tent,
came directly up to me, "My pretty lady, I
can tell your fortune !"

" You cannot," I replied ; but still I foolishly
longed to know what she would say ; and yield- *
ing to the temptation of the moment, I took out
a shilling and said, " That you shall have, if you
tell me any thing like the truth."

" So I will, pretty miss," she said ; and draw-
ing herself up, she fixed her piercing black eyes
on me, and added, " No good for those who deny
us ; those that climb too high will have a dovvnfal
in life ; and those that splash their clothes, will
be splashed with ill luck all their days."


My companions set up a shout of laughter, and
I hid my face in my hands. They all declared
that the woman must be a conjurer, for if ever
there were a true word spoken, it was respecting
me. To explain the reason of their triumph, I
must confess, that when I first came to school I
was a very wild girl ; I had been allowed to run
about as I pleased at home, and as we lived in a
hilly country, I used to climb about, till I became
very adventurous, and was not afraid of any thing.
I was thought a great trouble by the teachers,
because they found it difficult to make me walk
steadily and straight forward, without springing
occasionally to the right or the left, as I had been
accustomed to do, in my papa's grounds ; and as
to splashing, I was continually in disgrace for it.
I was quite confounded, therefore, by what the
gipsey said of course 1 gave her the shilling,
and I wish the affair had ended there. That
would have been the least of all the evils ; but I
never heard the last of the story, at school ; I
was considered quite defeated, and all took part
against me, and teazed me so, that had it not
been for kind Miss Juillet, I should have led a
sad life among them.

My mamma and sister being absent from home,


I had no opportunity of comforting myself in
their society ; for although I was aware they
would be deeply grieved at what I had done, yet
I had always been in the habit of such openness
with them, that I should have confessed my fault
without fear.

Under these circumstances, I brooded mucli
over what the gipsey had said ; it made me feel
very melancholy, and in vain I endeavored to
reason with myself on the subject ; the more I
thought about it, the more unhappy I was. The
light principles which I had early received, came
strongly to my mind, and then I felt assured that
it was impossible that any power of divination
should be bestowed from heaven upon these poor
ereatures. From whence then came their knowl-
edge? the very idea was horrible, and to think
that I had been the subject of what they had
derived from an evil source! for it was remark-
able what they had said to me at least so it
appeared then. Again and again I questioned
my school-fellows, whether they had given any
hint to the gipsey ; and they one and all positively
declared they had not

It seemed very shocking and I began to
think, that, ha?ing thus acted against ray con-


science, by asking counsel of evil persons, they
would be suffered to gain still greater influence
over me. The conviction that I had been well
instructed, and might have resisted the tempta-
tion, came like an arrow to my heart. I had
always been taught to consider God as my father,
and that I should go to him for help and forgive-
ness just as I would to a tender earthly parent.
But I had lost my confidence I was afraid to
pray or if I did, it was only in a formal man-
ner, saying a few words, because I was afraid to
omit the duty altogether.

O, my dear young friends ! this is a sad state
of mind to be in we get hardened, and are
ready to be the prey of every evil example. I
was living as if I were without God in the world,
and deprived for a time of the counsel of those
dear friends who would have led me back to him.

Our governess, I believe, was considered a
pious woman, but she kept us all at a distance
from her, so that I dared not have spoken a word
to her, unless she first addressed me. I suppose
she thought the ladies to whom she committed
the charge of us were good, or she would not
have trusted us to them ; but except in dear Miss
Juillet, she must have been sadly mistaken. How-
ever, I ought to blame no one but myself.


I continued very uncomfortable all the remain-
der of that half-year. Mamma did not return
home, but remained at the seaside, where I found
I was to join them, as soon as the vacation com-
menced. Formerly I should have counted the
hours till the time came; but now, though I
wished very much to see my dear relatives, I felt
as if I did not deserve their notice. I had not
recovered the effects of the gipsey's prediction.
I wondered how it would end, and what would be
at last my miserable fate. I am sure, during all
that period I did not once offend Miss Pike, either
in climbing, or splashing my clothes for I was
so careful in this respect as to make myself quite
ridiculous ; and to cause a constant triumph over
the unbeliever, as they were pleased to denote me.

The day at length arrived, and biddingadieti
to my governess and companions, I was sent with
a careful servant by the coach, which would bring
me, after a long day's journey, to the watering-
place where mamma was. All the way as I went,
I was pondering in my own mind, whether I
should tell mamma and Mary Anne what had
happened or not, and as I went farther and
farther away from my bad counsellors. I felt that
I was going to my best friends, from whom I


could hide nothing ; and I resolved, let the con-
sequence be what it would, to confess my mis-
deeds, and all the unhappiness they had caused

We had a fine day, and a very pleasant journey
to H , and the change of scene, with the beau-
tiful country through which we passed, delighted
me. It was my mamma's own maid who was
sent for me ; and at length she told me that we
were come within one stage of the end of our
journey, and bid me look out, for it was the pret-
tiest part of the way. I did so, till we came to
the top of a high hill, from whence we could see
the town of H , and the sea beyond.

At that moment, the horses took fright, and
after flying from side to side of the road, they
overturned the coach. Now my fate seemed
sealed and even in that moment of fright, the
gipsey's prediction crossed my mind but that
was all I remember, for I was stunned by a blow
I had received on my head, and I fainted away.
1 can recollect nothing more, till I opened my
eyes, and found myself in a cottage by the road
side, lying on a bed, and mamma and Mary Anne
standing by, with a surgeon, who had been bleed-
ing me. I screamed out, " O mamma ! the gip-


sey !" and immediately fainted again. When I
recovered, I was taken home in the carriage, and
put into bed, where 1 was kept as quietly as pos-
sible for some time. The servant had escaped
unhurt, had carried me into the cottage, and sent
for mamma, who immediately hastened thither.

I scarcely need tell you, my dear young ladies,
how often I thought of " the downfal " which the
gipsey had predicted and the moment I was
allowed to enter into conversation, I told mamma
the whole story ; adding, that I could not wonder
at what had been foretold coming true, because I
had been so naughty. She looked at me very
sorrowfully, and said, "My dear child, you may
be truly thankful for this sad accident, for I hope
it may have awakened your mind to a sense of
the danger of sinning against God, by doing that
he has forbidden.

" At the same time, I wish you tc be convinc-
ed, that your overturn has had nothing to do with
the gipsey's prediction. The deceitful persons
who pretend to tell fortune?, utter words which
will bear two different meanings. For instance,
in your case, by * a downfal in life,' she meant
what is usually understood by it loss of fortune
or rank in society, but it happens you have been


overturned in a coach, and by a constrained appli-
cation, the words might be accommodated to this

" I suppose when your school-fellows hear of
your accident, they will repeat it as another proof
of the correctness of gipsey divination. Thus,
similar stories are handed down as facts, which
would have been accounted equally true, with a
very different result."

This wise explanation, given by my dear mam-
ma, was very satisfactory. She pointed out to me
also the manner in which the sin of witchcraft is
spoken of in the Scriptures, and how awfully
God in former times punished those who exercis-
ed it. "It is not," she said, " that persons in the
present day have any real power; but the preten-
sion to it is wicked, because it assumes what God
has forbidden."

" Then, mamma," I answered, " are not those
persons much worse, who have been better taught
than these poor gipseys, and yet encourage them
to make a gain of their delusions? Oh! I hope
1 have learned a lesson for life ! "

After this, we had many very interesting con-
versations about the power that was granted from
above to the chosen messengers of the Lord of


Hosts, and how those people were confounded
who dared to gainsay them. We read of the
magicians of Egypt, who were permitted to go a
certain length with Uieir unholy incantations, only
that they might be more effectually confounded
by the prophet of God.* And mamma showed
me how each of the plagues of Egypt was directly
aimed against the false gods of that country, or
against some superstition that they fondly cher-
ished. The river that they worshipped was
turned into blood their consecrated frogs be-
came a torment to them the deities on whom
they depended for the destruction of insects, they
found unable to prevent the swarms of flies and
lice their adored oxen were smitten with fatal
disease and the rest of the plagues were de-
signed in the same manner to prove that the Lord
reigned God alone.

Then we proceeded to the Chaldean soothsay-
ers who were confounded before Daniel ; and
mamma told me that striking observation of a
quaint writer, that '' none but Daniel could read
his father's hand-writing." You will be much
interested in examining the manner in which the

* Exod. vii.


subject is treated in many parts of holy writ, and
the woes pronounced on the false prophets, who
prophesy lies in the name of the Lord, and the
exclusive manner in which he gives the power to
open and shut Heaven, and bring down the bles-
sings and curses he ordains for his creatures.

It was some time before I recovered my health,
after the shock I had received in the overturn. I
therefore remained at the seaside with mamma
and my sister, during a great part of the summer ;
and when we returned home, they determined
that I should not go again to Mrs. G.'s school.

Masters were eno-acred to teach me, and my dear


sister being much recovered, she also resumed
her instructions. I began to be very happy again ;
I had learned to appreciate the value of the soci-
ety of my dear relatives, and I hope I endeavored
to improve. I wish I may ever be like my sister,
when I come to be her age. You cannot think
how useful and active she is, and how much es-
teemed by all who know her. Many would have
excused themselves from exertion, with her deli-
cate health ; but even when confined almost to
the sofa, she would be devising plans for the ben-
efit of others, and when she was able to rise, she
would put them in execution. She seems too to


gain great influence over others, so as to induce
them to unite in her schemes of usefulness: and
yeUit is all done quietly, and you would never say
that she thought the least of her own efforts.
Her feeling, on the contrary, is, that she is at best
an unprofitable servant, and has done no more
than is her duty to do.

Ever since what happened to me about the gip-
sey, my sister had thought much of those poor
wanderers. She told me that she prayed a great
deal for them, for she knew they were so far from
the means of improvement ; no one used exer-
tions on their behalf, or tried to rescue them from
their wicked ways. They seemed out of the
reach of all but divine mercy. She often said, if
she were a man, she would be a missionary to
them. She endeavored to collect together all the
facts that are mentioned in history respecting
them ; to trace their origin and progress, and to
find out what is said of their manners and customs,
both in this country and others. If we were
reading a book of travels, and met with any ac-
counts of interviews or conversations held with
gipseys, she would employ me to transcribe it for
her. But still she said, though all spoke of their
wit and cleverness, and liked to be amused by


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Online LibraryJean Nicolas BouillyThe juvenile scrap-book and youth's annual → online text (page 4 of 8)