“Valerie, you make me laugh, and make me angry at the same time, but I can bear much from you now, for you have had a heavy blow, my poor child. Now let’s say no more on the subject; all is settled, and the arrangement will remain a secret, unless you publish it yourself.”
“I certainly shall make no secret of it, Madame Bathurst; I should be sorry to show false colours, and be supposed by your friends to be otherwise than what I really am. I have done nothing that I ought to be ashamed of, and I abhor deceit. Whatever may be my position in life, I trust that I shall never disgrace the name that I bear, and I am not the first of a noble name who has had a reverse in fortune.”
How strange that I now, for the first time in my life, began to feel pride in my family name. I presume because when we have lost almost everything, we cherish more that which remains to us. From the time that Madame Bathurst had first known me till the last twenty-four hours, not a symptom of pride had ever been discovered in me. As the protégée and adopted daughter of Madame d’Albret, with brilliant prospects, I was all humility—now a dependent, with a salary of 100 pounds per annum, Valerie was as proud as Lucifer himself. Madame Bathurst perceived this, and I must do her the justice to say, that she was very guarded in her conduct towards me. She felt sympathy for me, and treated me with more kindness, and, I may say, with more respect than she did when I was her visitor and her equal.
The next day I informed Caroline of the change in my prospects, and of my having accepted the office of governess—that was to say, on a six months’ trial. I pointed out to her that it would now be my duty to see that she did not neglect her studies, and that I was determined to do justice to Madame Bathurst’s confidence reposed in me. Caroline, who was of a very amiable and sweet disposition, replied, “That she should always look upon me as her friend and companion, and from her love for me, would do everything I wished,” and she kept her word.
The reader will agree with me, that it was impossible for any one to have been lowered down in position more gently than I was in this instance. The servants never knew that I had accepted the offer of governess, for I was invariably called Valerie by Madame Bathurst and her niece, and was treated as I was before when a visitor to the house. I bestowed much time upon Caroline, and taught myself daily, that I might be more able to teach her. I went back to the elements in everything, that I might be more capable of instructing, and Caroline made rapid progress in music, and promised to have, in a few years, a very fine voice. We went to town for the season, but I avoided company as much as possible—so much so, that Madame Bathurst complained of it.
“Valerie, you do wrong not to make your appearance. You retire in such a way that people naturally put questions to me, and ask if you are the governess, or what you are.”
“I wish them to do so, my dear madame, and I want you to reply frankly. I am the governess, and do not like anything like concealment.”
“But I cannot admit that you are what may be called a governess, Valerie. You are a young friend staying with me, who instructs my niece.”
“That is what a governess ought to be,” replied I, “a young friend who instructs your children.”
“I grant it,” replied Madame Bathurst; “but I fear if you were to take the situation in another family, you would find that a governess is not generally so considered or so treated. I do not know any class of people, who are more to be pitied than these young people who enter families as governesses; not considered good enough for the drawing-room, they are too good for the kitchen; they are treated with hauteur by the master and mistress, and only admitted, or suffered for a time to be in their company; by the servants they are considered as not having claims to those attentions and civilities, for which they are paid and fed; because receiving salaries, or ‘wages like themselves,’ as they assert, they are not entitled in their opinion to be attended upon. Thus are they, in most houses, neglected by all parties. Unhappy themselves, they cause ill-will and dissension, and more servants are dismissed, or given warning, on account of the governesses, than from any other cause. In the drawing-room they are a check upon conversation; in the school-room, if they do their duty, they are the cause of discontent, pouting and tears; like the bat, they are neither bird nor beast, and they flit about the house like ill-omens; they lose the light-heartedness and spring of youth; become sour from continual vexation and annoyance, and their lives are miserable, tedious, and full of repining. I tell you this candidly; it is a harsh picture, but I fear too true a one. With me I trust you will be happy, but you will run a great risk if you were to change and go into another family.”
“I have heard as much before, my dear madame,” replied I; “but your considerate kindness has made me forget it. I can only say that it will be a melancholy day when I am forced to quit your roof.”
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