LIFE AMONG THE LOWLY 315
to read plain reading; but the sewing was a more difficult matter. The creature was as lithe as a cat, and as active as a monkey, and the confinement of sewing was her abomination; so she broke her needles, threw them slyly out of windows, or down in chinks of the walls; she tangled, broke, and dirtied her thread, or, with a sly movement, would throw a spool away altogether. Her motions were almost as quick as those of a practiced conjurer, and her command of her face quite as great; and though Miss Ophelia could not help feeling that so many accidents could not possibly happen in succession, yet she could not, without a watchfulness which would leave her no time for anything else, detect her.
Topsy was soon a noted character in the establishment. Her talent for every species of drollery, grimace, and mimicry — for dancing, tumbling, climbing, singing, whistling, imitating every sound that hit her fancy — seemed inexhaustible. In her play-hours, she invariably had every child in the establishment at her heels, open-mouthed with admiration and wonder, — not excepting Miss Eva, who appeared to be fascinated by her wild diablerie, as a dove is sometimes charmed by a glittering serpent. Miss Ophelia was uneasy that Eva should fancy Topsy's society so much, and implored St. Clare to forbid it.
" Poh! let the child alone," said St. Clare. " Topsy will do her good."
" But so depraved a child, — are you not afraid she will teach her some mischief ? "
" She can't teach her mischief ; she might teach it to some children, but evil rolls off Eva's mind like dew off a cabbage-leaf, — not a drop sinks in."
" Don't be too sure," said Miss Ophelia. " I know I 'd never let a child of mine play with Topsy."
" Well, your children need n't," said St. Clare, " but mine may ; if Eva could have been spoiled, it would have been done years ago."
Topsy was at first despised and contemned by the upper