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Madame Perrodon and Mademoiselle De Lafontaine were both of our party. The
young stranger had hardly lain down in her bed when she sank into a deep sleep;
and those ladies had left her in the care of a servant.
“How do you like our guest?” I asked, as soon as Madame entered. “Tell me all
about her?”
“I like her extremely,” answered Madame, “she is, I almost think, the prettiest
creature I ever saw; about your age, and so gentle and nice.”
“She is absolutely beautiful,” threw in Mademoiselle, who had peeped for a
moment into the stranger’s room.
“And such a sweet voice!” added Madame Perrodon.
“Did you remark a woman in the carriage, after it was set up again, who did not
get out,” inquired Mademoiselle, “but only looked from the window?”
“No, we had not seen her.”
Then she described a hideous black woman, with a sort of coloured turban on
her head. and who was gazing all the time from the carriage window, nodding
and grinning derisively towards the ladies, with gleaming eyes and large white
eye-balls, and her teeth set as if in fury.
“Did you remark what an ill-looking pack of men the servants were?” asked
“Yes,” said my father, who had just come in, “ugly, hang-dog looking fellows. as
ever I beheld in my life. I hope they mayn’t rob the poor lady in the forest. They
are clever rogues, however; they got everything to rights in a minute.”
“I dare say they are worn out with too long travelling— said Madame. ”Besides
looking wicked, their faces were so strangely lean, and dark, and sullen. I am
very curious, I own; but I dare say the young lady will tell you all about it to-
morrow, if she is sufficiently recovered.“
“I don’t think she will,” said my father, with a mysterious smile, and a little nod of
his head, as if he knew more about it than he cared to tell us.
This made us all the more inquisitive as to what had passed between him and
the lady in the black velvet, in the brief but earnest interview that had immediately
preceded her departure.
We were scarcely alone, when I entreated him to tell me. He did not need much
“There is no particular reason why I should not tell you. She expressed a
reluctance to trouble us with the care of her daughter, saying she was in delicate
health, and nervous, but not subject to any kind of seizure—she volunteered
that— nor to any illusion; being, in fact, perfectly sane.”
“How very odd to say all that!” I interpolated. “It was so unnecessary.”
“At all events it was said,” he laughed, “and as you wish to know all that passed,
which was indeed very little, I tell you. She then said, ‘I am making a long journey
of vital importance—she emphasized the word—rapid and secret; I shall return
for my child in three months; in the meantime, she will be silent as to who we are,
whence we come, and whither we are travelling.’ That is all she said. She spoke
very pure French. When she said the word ‘secret,’ she paused for a few
seconds, looking sternly, her eyes fixed on mine. I fancy she makes a great point