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betrayed our infatuated hospitality has done it all. I thought I was receiving into
my house innocence, gaiety, a charming companion for my lost Bertha. Heavens!
what a fool have I been! I thank God my child died without a suspicion of the
cause of her sufferings. She is gone without so much as conjecturing the nature
of her illness, and the accursed passion of the agent of all this misery. I devote
my remaining days to tracking and extinguishing a monster. I am told I may hope
to accomplish my righteous and merciful purpose. At present there is scarcely a
gleam of light to guide me. I curse my conceited incredulity, my despicable
affectation of superiority, my blindness, my obstinacy—all— too late. I cannot
write or talk collectedly now. I am distracted. So soon as I shall have a little
recovered, I mean to devote myself for a time to enquiry, which may possibly
lead me as far as Vienna. Some time in the autumn, two months hence, or earlier
if I live, I will see you—that is, if you permit me; I will then tell you all that I scarce
dare put upon paper now. Farewell. Pray for me, dear friend.”
In these terms ended this strange letter. Though I had never seen Bertha
Rheinfeldt my eyes filled with tears at the sudden intelligence; I was startled, as
well as profoundly disappointed.
The sun had now set, and it was twilight by the time I had returned the General’s
letter to my father.
It was a soft clear evening, and we loitered, speculating upon the possible
meanings of the violent and incoherent sentences which I had just been reading.
We had nearly a mile to walk before reaching the road that passes the schloss in
front, and by that time the moon was shining brilliantly. At the drawbridge we met
Madame Perrodon and Mademoiselle De Lafontaine, who had come out, without
their bonnets, to enjoy the exquisite moonlight.
We heard their voices gabbling in animated dialogue as we approached. We
joined them at the drawbridge, and turned about to admire with them the
beautiful scene.
The glade through which we had just walked lay before us. At our left the narrow
road wound away under clumps of lordly trees, and was lost to sight amid the
thickening forest. At the right the same road crosses the steep and picturesque
bridge, near which stands a ruined tower which once guarded that pass; and
beyond the bridge an abrupt eminence rises, covered with trees, and showing in
the shadows some grey ivy-clustered rocks.
Over the sward and low grounds a thin film of mist was stealing like smoke,
marking the distances with a transparent veil; and here and there we could see
the river faintly flashing in the moonlight.
No softer, sweeter scene could be imagined. The news I had just heard made it
melancholy; but nothing could disturb its character of profound serenity, and the
enchanted glory and vagueness of the prospect.
My father, who enjoyed the picturesque, and I, stood looking in silence over the
expanse beneath us. The two good governesses, standing a little way behind us,
discoursed upon the scene, and were eloquent upon the moon.
Madame Perrodon was fat, middle-aged, and romantic, and talked and sighed
poetically. Mademoiselle De Lafontaine—in right of her father who was a
German, assumed to be psychological, metaphysical, and something of a