The Barbadoes Girl
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"The Barbadoes Girl" is a heartwarming novel by Barbara Hofland that encourages children to strive to be the best version of themselves. The story follows Matilda, a young girl from Barbados who must live with family friends in England after her father's death. Matilda initially displays spoiled, rude, and uneducated behavior, but with the patience and love of the Harewood family, she begins to work on conquering her bad temper and becoming a sensible and well-informed young lady.

The Barbadoes Girl

A Tale for Young People

Barbara Hofland

The Barbadoes Girl

The indulgence of passion makes bitter work for repentance, and produces a feeble old age.

As violent contrary winds endanger a ship, so it is with turbulent emotions in the mind; whereas such as are favourable awaken the understanding, keep in motion the will, and make the whole man more vigorous.

Chapter I

As Mr. Harewood was one evening sitting with his wife and children, he told them that he expected soon to receive among them the daughter of a friend, who had lately died in the West Indies.

Mr. Harewood’s family consisted of his wife, two sons, and a daughter: the eldest, named Edmund, was about twelve years of age; Charles, the second, was scarcely ten; and Ellen, the daughter, had just passed her eighth birthday: they were all sensible, affectionate children, but a little different in disposition, the eldest being grave and studious, the second lively and active, and as he was nearer to Ellen’s age, she was often inclined to romp with him, when she should have minded her book; but she was so fond of her mamma, and was educated with such a proper sense of the duty and obedience she owed her, that a word or a look never failed to restrain the exuberance of her spirits.

Children are alike naturally curious and fond of society; the moment, therefore, Mr. Harewood mentioned their expected guest, every one had some question to ask respecting her; but as Ellen’s was uttered with most mildness and modesty, she was first answered; and her brother Charles, taking this hint, listened quietly to the following conversation, not joining in it, till he felt that he had a right to do so, from having practised a forbearance that cost him some effort.

Ellen. — Pray, papa, what is this little girl’s name, and how old is she?

Father. — She is called Matilda Sophia Hanson: her father was a man of good fortune, and she is an only child; I believe, however, his affairs are in an unsettled state, as her mother is under the necessity of remaining some time in the country, in order to settle them. It is at her earnest request that I have been prevailed upon to accept the charge of her daughter. I believe she is about a year younger than you; but as the growth of people in warm countries is more rapid than in this, I expect to see her quite as tall and forward as you, Ellen.

Ellen. — But, dear papa, how will she get here from a place on the other side of the globe? I mean, who will bring her? for I know, of course, that she must come in a ship.

Father. — She will be attended by a negro servant, who has always waited upon her; and who will return after she is safely landed, I suppose.

Ellen. — Poor thing! how she will cry when she leaves her own dear mamma, when she is to cross the wide sea! and then again, when she parts with her good nurse; I dare say she will kiss her very fondly, though she is a black.

Charles. — Oh, she will forget her sorrow when she sees so many things that are quite new to her. I’m afraid she’ll think Ellen, and us boys, very silly, ignorant creatures, compared to her, who has seen so much of the world: upon my word, we must be all upon our good behaviour.

Father. — I hope you will behave well, not merely from conscious inferiority, but because you would be both impolite and unkind, if you omitted any thing in your power that could render a stranger happy, who is so entirely thrown upon our protection — one, too, who has lost a fond father, and is parted from a tender mother.

Edmund. — But, papa, as Miss Hanson is coming to England for education, and is yet very young, surely Charles must be wrong in supposing that she is wiser, or, I ought to say, better informed, than we are, since it is utterly improbable that she should have had the benefit of such instructions as we have enjoyed.

Father. — True, my dear; but yet she will, of course, be acquainted with many things to which you are necessarily entire strangers, although I must remark that Charles’s expression, “she has seen much of the world,” is not proper; for it is only applied to people who have mixed much with society — not to those whose travels have shown them only land and water. However, coming from a distant country, a society very different from ours, and people to whom you are strangers, she cannot fail to possess many ideas and much knowledge which are unknown to you; I therefore hope her residence with us for a time will prove mutually advantageous; but if the advantage should prove to be on your side, I trust you will never abuse it by laughing, or in any way insulting and teazing your visitant; such conduct would ensure most serious displeasure.

Mother. — It would prove them not only very ignorant, and deficient in the education which even savages give their children, but prove that they were devoid of that spirit of courtesy which is recommended in the Scriptures, and which every Christian child will nourish in his heart and display in his manners: the same holy apostle, who inculcated the highest doctrines of his Divine Master, says also — “Be affable, be courteous, bearing one with another.”

The children for a few moments looked very serious, and each appeared to be inwardly making some kind of promise or resolution to themselves respecting the expected stranger: at length, Ellen, looking up, said to her mamma, with great earnestness — “Indeed, mamma, I will love Miss Hanson as much as if she were my sister, if she will permit me to do it.”

“You had better say, Ellen, that you will be as kind to her as if she were your sister; for until we know more of her, it is not possible for us to promise so much; nor is it advisable to give our hearts at first sight, even to those who have yet stronger claims upon our good will and friendly services.”

Mr. Harewood added his approbation of this sentiment, for he knew it was one that could not be repeated too often to young people, who are ever apt to take up either partialities or prejudices too strongly, and whose judgment has ever occasion for the attempering lessons of experience.

Chapter II

At length the long-wished-for day arrived, and the young foreigner made her appearance in the family of Mr. Harewood. She was a fine, handsome-looking girl, and though younger in fact, was taller and older-looking than Ellen, but was not nearly so well shaped, as indolence, and the habit of being carried about instead of walking, had occasioned her to stoop, and to move as if her limbs were too weak to support her.

The kindness and politeness with which she was received in the family of Mr. Harewood, did not appear to affect the Barbadoes girl in any other way than to increase that self-importance which was evidently her characteristic; and even the mild, affectionate Ellen, who had predisposed her heart to love her very dearly, shrunk from the proud and haughty expression which frequently animated her features, and was surprised to hear her name her mamma with as much indifference as if she were a common acquaintance; for Ellen did not know that the indulgence of bad passions hardens the heart, and renders it insensible to those sweet and tender ties which are felt by the good and amiable, and which constitute their highest happiness.

In a very short time, it became apparent that passion and peevishness were also the traits of this unfortunate child, who had been indulged in the free exercise of a railing tongue, and even of a clawing hand, towards the numerous negro dependants that swarmed in her father’s mansion, over whom she had exercised all the despotic sovereignty of a queen, with the capriciousness of a petted child, and thereby obtained a habit of tyranny over all whom she deemed her inferiors, as appeared from the style in which she now conducted herself constantly towards the menials of Mr. Harewood’s family, and not unfrequently towards the superiors.

For a few days Mr. Harewood bore with this conduct, and only opposed it with gentleness and persuasion; but as it became evident that this gentleness emboldened the mistaken child to proceed to greater rudeness, he commenced a new style of treatment, and the English education of Matilda, so far as concerned that most important part of all education, the management of the temper, in the following manner:

On the family being seated at the dinner-table, Miss Hanson called out, in a loud and angry tone, “Give me some beer!”

Mr. Harewood had previously instructed the servant who waited upon them how to act, in case he was thus addressed; and in consequence of his master’s commands, the man took no notice whatever of this claim upon his attention.

“Give me some beer!” cried she again, in so fierce a manner that the boys started, and poor Ellen blushed very deeply, not only from the sense of shame which she felt for the vulgarity of the young lady’s manners, but from a kind of terror, on hearing such a shrill and threatening voice.

The servant still took no notice of her words, though he did not do it with an air of defiance, but rather as if it were not addressed to him.

The little angry child muttered, loud enough to be heard — “What a fool the wretch is!” but as nobody answered what was in fact addressed to no one, she was at length compelled to look for redress to Mrs. Harewood, whom, regarding with a mixture of rage and scorn, she now addressed — “Pray, ma’am, why don’t you tell the man to give me some beer? I suppose he’ll understand you, though he seems a fool, and deaf.”

“My children are accustomed to say — ‘Please, Thomas, give me some beer;’ or, ‘I’ll thank you for a little beer;’ and the loud rude manner in which you spoke, probably astonished and confused him. As, however, I certainly understand you, I will endeavour to relieve you. — Pray, Thomas, be so kind as to give Miss Hanson some beer,” said Mrs. Harewood.

Thomas instantly offered it; but the little girl cried out in a rage — “I won’t have it — no! that I won’t, from that man: I’ll have my own negro to wait — that I will! — Must I say please to a servant? must a nasty man in a livery be kind to me? — no! no! no! Zebby, Zebby, I say, come here!”

The poor black woman, hearing the loud tones of her young lady, to which she had been pretty well used, instantly ran into the room, before Mr. Harewood had time to prevent it, and very humbly cried out — “What does Missy please wanty?”

“Some beer, you black beetle!”

“Is, Missy,” said the poor woman, with a sigh, reaching the beer from Thomas with a trembling hand, as if she expected the glass to be thrown in her face.

Charles had with great difficulty refrained from laughter on the outset of this scene; but indignation now suffused his countenance. The young vixen was an acute observer, and, had she not been cruelly neglected, might have been a sensible child. It instantly struck her, that his features disputed her right; and, determined not to endure this from any one, she instantly threw the beer in the face of poor Zebby, saying — “There’s that for you, madam.”

It was not in the forbearance of the children to repress their feelings; even Edmund exclaimed — “What a brute!”

Ellen involuntarily started up, and hid her face in her mother’s lap, while Charles most good-naturedly offered his handkerchief to the aggrieved Zebby, kindly condoling with her on her misfortune.

Mr. Harewood now, for the first time, spoke. — “Zebby,” said he, in a calm but stern tone, “it is my strict command, that so long as you reside under my roof, you never give that young lady any thing again, nor hold any conversation with her: if you disobey my commands, I shall be under the necessity of discharging you.”

The young lady checked herself, and for a moment looked alarmed; but recovering, she said — “She is not yours, and you sha’n’t discharge her: she is my own slave, and I will do what I please with her; poor papa bought her for me, as soon as I was born, and I’ll use her as I please.”

“But you know your mamma told you, that as soon as she arrived in England she would be free, and might either return or remain, as she pleased. Now it so happens that she is much pleased with my family, and having a sincere regard for your mother, she this morning requested Mrs. Harewood to engage her in any service she could undertake: convinced that she was worthy our protection, we have done this, and therefore all your claims upon her are over.”

The little girl, bursting into a passionate flood of tears, ran out of the room.

Poor Zebby, courtesying, said — “Sir, me hopes you will have much pity on Missy — she was spoily all her life, by poor massa — her mamma good, very good; and when Missy pinch Zebby, and pricky with pin, then good mississ she be angry; but massa say only — ‘Poo! poo! she be child — naughty tricks wear off in time.’ He be warm man himself.”

The poor negro’s defence affected the little circle, and Mr. Harewood observing it, said — “You perceive, my dear children, that this child is in fact far more an object of compassion than blame, for she has been permitted to indulge every bad propensity of her nature, and their growth has destroyed that which was good; of course, her life has been unhappy in itself, yet punishment has not produced amendment. Poor thing! how many of the sweetest pleasures of existence are unknown to her! She is a stranger to the satisfaction of obliging others, and to the consciousness of overcoming herself, which, I trust, you all know to be an inestimable blessing. I truly pity her; but I am compelled to treat her as if I blamed her only; I am obliged to be harsh, in order that I may be useful, and give pain to produce ease.”

In about an hour, finding that no one approached, and feeling the want of the dinner her shameful rudeness and petulance had interrupted, and which she had but just begun, Matilda came down stairs, with the air of a person who is struggling to hide, by effrontery, the chagrin she is conscious of deserving: no person took any notice of her entrance, and all appearance of the good meal she wanted was removed. There was a certain something in the usually-smiling faces of the heads of the mansion that acted as a repellent to her, and she sat for some time silent; but at length she spoke to Ellen, who, from her gentle meekness, was ever easy of access, and whom, intending to mortify, she accosted thus — “Nelly, did you eat my chicken?”

Charles burst into a loud laugh, as Ellen, who had never heard herself thus addressed, for a moment looked rather foolish; on which he answered for her, with a somewhat provoking sauciness of countenance — “No, Matty, she did not eat your chicken.”

“My name is not Matty — it is Matilda Sophia, and you are a great booby for calling me so; but Nelly, or Nell, is short for Ellen, and by one of those names I shall call her, whenever I choose, if it be only to vex you.”

“Perhaps, too, you will choose to prick her, and pinch her, Miss Matilda Sophia Hanson?” answered Charles, sneeringly, drawing out her name as long and as pompously as it was possible.

“Fie, Charles!” said Edmund; “I am sure you act as if you had forgotten all that papa told us about Miss Hanson.”

Charles, after a moment’s thought, acknowledged that he was wrong, very, very wrong.

Matilda was much struck with this; she was well aware that, under the same circumstances, she should have said much more than he had, and she was curious as to what had been said of her, which could have produced this effect on a boy generally so vivacious and warm-tempered as Charles.

After cogitating upon it some time, she at length concluded that Mr. Harewood had endeavoured to impress on the minds of his family the consequence she possessed, as an only child and a great heiress; and although he had appeared so lately to act under a very different impression, yet it was very possible that he had only done so because he was out of temper himself, and, now his mind was become tranquil again, he had repented of his conduct, and been anxious to prevent his children from following his example in this respect.

The more Matilda thought of this, the more fully she fixed it in her mind as an article of belief; but yet there was something in the calm, firm tones of Mr. Harewood, when he spoke to her, and in his present open, yet unbending countenance, when he happened to cast his eyes towards her, which rendered her unsatisfied with the answer she thus gave her own internal inquiries; and although she had been exceedingly angry with him, for presuming to speak to her, she yet felt as if his esteem, and indeed his forgiveness, were necessary for her happiness; and her pride, thus strengthened, contended with her fears and consciousness of guilt and folly; and while she resolved inwardly to keep up her dignity with the young ones, she yet, from time to time, cast an anxious eye towards her new monitor.

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