a familiar picture in my memory. This was Madame Perrodon, a native of Berne,
whose care and good nature now in part supplied to me the loss of my mother,
whom I do not even remember, so early I lost her. She made a third at our little
dinner party. There was a fourth, Mademoiselle De Lafontaine, a lady such as
you term, I believe, a “finishing governess.” She spoke French and German,
Madame Perrodon French and broken English, to which my father and I added
English, which, partly to prevent its becoming a lost language among us, and
partly from patriotic motives, we spoke every day. The consequence was a
Babel, at which strangers used to laugh, and which I shall make no attempt to
reproduce in this narrative. And there were two or three young lady friends
besides, pretty nearly of my own age, who were occasional visitors, for longer or
shorter terms; and these visits I sometimes returned.
These were our regular social resources; but of course there were chance visits
from “neighbours” of only five or six leagues distance. My life was,
notwithstanding, rather a solitary one, I can assure you.
My gouvernantes had just so much control over me as you might conjecture such
sage persons would have in the case of a rather spoiled girl, whose only parent
allowed her pretty nearly her own way in everything.
The first occurrence in my existence, which produced a terrible impression upon
my mind, which, in fact, never has been effaced, was one of the very earliest
incidents of my life which I can recollect. Some people will think it so trifling that it
should not be recorded here. You will see, however, by-and-by, why I mention it.
The nursery, as it was called, though I had it all to myself, was a large room in
the upper story of the castle, with a steep oak roof. I can’t have been more than
six years old, when one night I awoke, and looking round the room from my bed,
failed to see the nursery-maid. Neither was my nurse there; and I thought myself
alone. I was not frightened, for I was one of those happy children who are
studiously kept in ignorance of ghost stories, of fairy tales, and of all such lore as
makes us cover up our heads when the door cracks suddenly, or the flicker of an
expiring candle makes the shadow of a bed-post dance upon the wall, nearer to
our faces. I was vexed and insulted at finding myself, as I conceived, neglected,
and I began to whimper, preparatory to a hearty bout of roaring; when to my
surprise, I saw a solemn, but very pretty face looking at me from the side of the
bed. It was that of a young lady who was kneeling, with her hands under the
coverlet. I looked at her with a kind of pleased wonder, and ceased whimpering.
She caressed me with her hands, and lay down beside me on the bed, and drew
me towards her, smiling; I felt immediately delightfully soothed, and fell asleep
again. I was wakened by a sensation as if two needles ran into my breast very
deep at the same moment, and I cried loudly. The lady started back, with her
eyes fixed on me, and then slipped down upon the floor, and, as I thought, hid
herself under the bed.
I was now for the first time frightened, and I yelled with all my might and main.
Nurse, nursery-maid, housekeeper, all came running in, and hearing my story,
they made light of it, soothing me all they could meanwhile. But, child as I was, I
could perceive that their faces were pale with an unwonted look of anxiety, and I