Ernest Linwood, by Caroline Lee Hentz
With an incident of my childhood I will commence the record of my life. It stands out in bold prominence, rugged and bleak, through the haze of memory.
I was only twelve years old. He might have spoken less harshly. He might have remembered and pitied my youth and sensitiveness, that tall, powerful, hitherto kind man,—my preceptor, and, as I believed, my friend. Listen to what he did say, in the presence of the whole school of boys, as well as girls, assembled on that day to hear the weekly exercises read, written on subjects which the master had given us the previous week.
One by one, we were called up to the platform, where he sat enthroned in all the majesty of the Olympian king-god. One by one, the manuscripts were read by their youthful authors,—the criticisms uttered, which marked them with honor or shame,—gliding figures passed each other, going and returning, while a hasty exchange of glances, betrayed the flash of triumph, or the gloom of disappointment.
"Gabriella Lynn!" The name sounded like thunder in my ears. I rose, trembling, blushing, feeling as if every pair of eyes in the hall were burning like redhot balls on my face. I tried to move, but my feet were glued to the floor.
The tone was louder, more commanding, and I dared not resist the mandate. The greater fear conquered the less. With a desperate effort I walked, or rather rushed, up the steps, the paper fluttering in my hand, as if blown upon by a strong wind.
"A little less haste would be more decorous, Miss."
The shadow of a pair of beetling brows rolled darkly over me. Had I stood beneath an overhanging cliff, with the ocean waves dashing at my feet, I could not have felt more awe or dread. A mist settled on my eyes.
"Read,"—cried the master, waving his ferula with a commanding gesture,—"our time is precious."