’There now, dear Maud, we have heard enough; it is, I do believe, a delusion. Madame de la Rougierre will be your companion, at the utmost, for three or four weeks. Do exercise a little of your self-command and good sense—you know how I am tortured. Do not, I entreat, add to my perplexities. You may make yourself very happy with Madame if you will, I have no doubt.’
‘I propose to Mademoiselle,’ said Madame, drying her eyes with a gentle alacrity, ’to profit of my visit for her education. But she does not seem to weesh wat I think is so useful.’
’She threatened me with some horrid French vulgarism—de faire baiser le babouin a moi, whatever that means; and I know she hates me,’ I replied, impetuously.
‘Doucement—doucement!’ said my uncle, with a smile at once amused and compassionate. ‘Doucement! ma chere.’
With great hands and cunning eyes uplifted, Madame tearfully—for her tears came on short notice—again protested her absolute innocence. She had never in all her life so much as heard one so villain phrase.
’You see, my dear, you have misheard; young people never attend. You will do well to take advantage of Madame’s short residence to get up your French a little, and the more you are with her the better.’
‘I understand then, Mr. Ruthyn, you weesh I should resume my instructions?’ asked Madame.
’Certainly; and converse all you can in French with Mademoiselle Maud. You will be glad, my dear, that I’ve insisted on it,’ he said, turning to me, ’when you have reached France, where you will find they speak nothing else. And now, dear Maud—no, not a word more—you must leave me. Farewell, Madame!’
And he waved us out a little impatiently; and I, without one look toward Madame de la Rougierre, stunned and incensed, walked into my room and shut the door.
THE FOOT OF HERCULES
I stood at the window—still the same leaden sky and feathery sleet before me—trying to estimate the magnitude of the discovery I had just made. Gradually a kind of despair seized me, and I threw myself passionately on my bed, weeping aloud.
Good Mary Quince was, of course, beside me in a moment, with her pale, concerned face.
’Oh, Mary, Mary, she’s come—that dreadful woman, Madame de la Rougierre, has come to be my governess again; and Uncle Silas won’t hear or believe anything about her. It is vain talking; he is prepossessed. Was ever so unfortunate a creature as I? Who could have fancied or feared such a thing? Oh, Mary, Mary, what am I to do? what is to become of me? Am I never to shake off that vindictive, terrible woman?’
Mary said all she could to console me. I was making too much of her. What was she, after all, more than a governess?—she could not hurt me. I was not a child no longer—she could not bully me now; and my uncle, though he might be deceived for a while, would not be long finding her out.