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Jessie Hampton
by [?]

“WHAT are you doing here, miss?”

The young girl thus addressed was sitting by a centre-table, upon which stood a lamp, in a handsomely furnished drawing-room. She laid aside the book she was reading, and, without making any reply, rose up quickly and retired. Two or three persons, members of the family, were present. All observed the effect of Mrs. Freeman’s words, yet no one had heard what was said; nor would they have been aware that more than a request for some service had been made, but for the lady’s remark as the girl left the room.

“I might as well begin at once, and let Jessie know her place.”

“What did you say to her, ma?” asked a young lady who sat swinging herself in a large rocking-chair.

“I simply asked her what she was doing here.”

“What did she answer?”

“Nothing. The way in which I put the question fully explained my meaning. I am sorry that there should have arisen a necessity for hurting her feelings; but if the girl doesn’t know her place, she must be told where it is.”

“I don’t see that she was doing any great harm,” remarked an old gentleman who sat in front of the grate.

“She was not in her place, brother,” said Mrs. Freeman, with an air of dignity. “We employ her as a teacher in the family, not as a companion. Her own good sense should have taught her this.”

“You wouldn’t have us make an equal of Jessie Hampton, would you, uncle Edward?” inquired the young lady who sat in the rocking-chair.

“You cannot make her your equal, Fanny, in point of worldly blessings, for, in this matter, Providence has dealt more hardly with her than with you. As to companionship, I do not see that she is less worthy now than she was a year ago.”

“You talk strangely, Edward,” said Mrs. Freeman, in a tone of dissent.

“In what way, sister?”

“There has been a very great change in a year. Jessie’s family no longer moves in our circle.”

“True; but is Jessie any the less worthy to sit in your parlour than she was then?”

I think so, and that must decide the matter,” returned Mrs. Freeman, evincing some temper.

The old gentleman said no more; but Fanny remarked–“I was not in favour of taking Jessie, for I knew how it would be; but Mrs. Carlton recommended her so highly, and said so much in her favour, that no room was left for a refusal. As for Jessie herself, I have no particular objection to her; but the fact of her having once moved in the circle we are in is against her; for it leaves room for her to step beyond her place, as she has already done, and puts upon us the unpleasant necessity of reminding her of her error.”

“It don’t seem to me,” remarked Mr. Freeman, who had till now said nothing, “that Miss Hampton was doing any thing worthy of reproof. She has been well raised, we know; is an educated, refined, and intelligent girl, and, therefore, has nothing about her to create repugnance or to make her presence disagreeable. It would be better, perhaps, if we looked more to what persons are, than to things merely external.”

“It is all very well to talk in that way,” said Mrs. Freeman. “But Miss Hampton is governess in our family, and it is only right that she should hold to us that relation and keep her place. What she has been, or that she is, beyond the fact of her present position here, is nothing to us.”

Mr. Freeman knew from experience, that no particular good would grow out of a prolonged argument on this subject, and so said nothing further, although he could not force from his mind the image of the young girl as she rose up hastily and left the room, nor help thinking how sad a change it would be for one of his own children, if reduced suddenly to her condition.