I was just making up my mind to go to Mary Quince, and learn something definite, when I heard my father’s step approaching from the library: so I quietly re-entered the drawingroom, but with an anxious and throbbing heart.
When he came in, as usual, he patted me on the head gently, with a kind of smile, and then began his silent walk up and down the room. I was yearning to question him on the point that just then engrossed me so disagreeably; but the awe in which I stood of him forbade.
After a time he stopped at the window, the curtain of which I had drawn, and the shutter partly opened, and he looked out, perhaps with associations of his own, on the scene I had been contemplating.
It was not for nearly an hour after, that my father suddenly, after his wont, in a few words, apprised me of the arrival of Madame de la Rougierre to be my governess, highly recommended and perfectly qualified. My heart sank with a sure presage of ill. I already disliked, distrusted, and feared her.
I had more than an apprehension of her temper and fear of possibly abused authority. The large-featured, smirking phantom, saluting me so oddly in the moonlight, retained ever after its peculiar and unpleasant hold upon my nerves.
’Well, Miss Maud, dear, I hope you’ll like your new governess—for it’s more than I do, just at present at least,’ said Mrs. Rusk, sharply—she was awaiting me in my room. ’I hate them French-women; they’re not natural, I think. I gave her her supper in my room. She eats like a wolf, she does, the great raw-boned hannimal. I wish you saw her in bed as I did. I put her next the clock-room—she’ll hear the hours betimes, I’m thinking. You never saw such a sight. The great long nose and hollow cheeks of her, and oogh! such a mouth! I felt a’most like little Red Riding-Hood—I did, Miss.’
Here honest Mary Quince, who enjoyed Mrs. Rusk’s satire, a weapon in which she was not herself strong, laughed outright.
’Turn down the bed, Mary. She’s very agreeable—she is, just now—all new-comers is; but she did not get many compliments from me, Miss—no, I rayther think not. I wonder why honest English girls won’t answer the gentry for governesses, instead of them gaping, scheming, wicked furriners? Lord forgi’ me, I think they’re all alike.’
Next morning I made acquaintance with Madame de la Rougierre. She was tall, masculine, a little ghastly perhaps, and draped in purple silk, with a lace cap, and great bands of black hair, too thick and black, perhaps, to correspond quite naturally with her bleached and sallow skin, her hollow jaws, and the fine but grim wrinkles traced about her brows and eyelids. She smiled, she nodded, and then for a good while she scanned me in silence with a steady cunning eye, and a stern smile.
‘And how is she named—what is Mademoiselle’s name?’ said the tall stranger.