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Chapter 1

  • I am by birth a Genevese, and my family is one of the most distinguished o_hat republic. My ancestors had been for many years counsellors and syndics,
  • and my father had filled several public situations with honour and reputation.
  • He was respected by all who knew him for his integrity and indefatigabl_ttention to public business. He passed his younger days perpetually occupie_y the affairs of his country; a variety of circumstances had prevented hi_arrying early, nor was it until the decline of life that he became a husban_nd the father of a family.
  • As the circumstances of his marriage illustrate his character, I canno_efrain from relating them. One of his most intimate friends was a merchan_ho, from a flourishing state, fell, through numerous mischances, int_overty. This man, whose name was Beaufort, was of a proud and unbendin_isposition and could not bear to live in poverty and oblivion in the sam_ountry where he had formerly been distinguished for his rank an_agnificence. Having paid his debts, therefore, in the most honourable manner,
  • he retreated with his daughter to the town of Lucerne, where he lived unknow_nd in wretchedness. My father loved Beaufort with the truest friendship an_as deeply grieved by his retreat in these unfortunate circumstances. H_itterly deplored the false pride which led his friend to a conduct so littl_orthy of the affection that united them. He lost no time in endeavouring t_eek him out, with the hope of persuading him to begin the world again throug_is credit and assistance. Beaufort had taken effectual measures to concea_imself, and it was ten months before my father discovered his abode.
  • Overjoyed at this discovery, he hastened to the house, which was situated in _ean street near the Reuss. But when he entered, misery and despair alon_elcomed him. Beaufort had saved but a very small sum of money from the wrec_f his fortunes, but it was sufficient to provide him with sustenance for som_onths, and in the meantime he hoped to procure some respectable employment i_ merchant's house. The interval was, consequently, spent in inaction; hi_rief only became more deep and rankling when he had leisure for reflection,
  • and at length it took so fast hold of his mind that at the end of three month_e lay on a bed of sickness, incapable of any exertion.
  • His daughter attended him with the greatest tenderness, but she saw wit_espair that their little fund was rapidly decreasing and that there was n_ther prospect of support. But Caroline Beaufort possessed a mind of a_ncommon mould, and her courage rose to support her in her adversity. Sh_rocured plain work; she plaited straw and by various means contrived to ear_ pittance scarcely sufficient to support life.
  • Several months passed in this manner. Her father grew worse; her time was mor_ntirely occupied in attending him; her means of subsistence decreased; and i_he tenth month her father died in her arms, leaving her an orphan and _eggar. This last blow overcame her, and she knelt by Beaufort's coffi_eeping bitterly, when my father entered the chamber. He came like _rotecting spirit to the poor girl, who committed herself to his care; an_fter the interment of his friend he conducted her to Geneva and placed he_nder the protection of a relation. Two years after this event Caroline becam_is wife.
  • There was a considerable difference between the ages of my parents, but thi_ircumstance seemed to unite them only closer in bonds of devoted affection.
  • There was a sense of justice in my father's upright mind which rendered i_ecessary that he should approve highly to love strongly. Perhaps durin_ormer years he had suffered from the late-discovered unworthiness of on_eloved and so was disposed to set a greater value on tried worth. There was _how of gratitude and worship in his attachment to my mother, differing wholl_rom the doting fondness of age, for it was inspired by reverence for he_irtues and a desire to be the means of, in some degree, recompensing her fo_he sorrows she had endured, but which gave inexpressible grace to hi_ehaviour to her. Everything was made to yield to her wishes and he_onvenience. He strove to shelter her, as a fair exotic is sheltered by th_ardener, from every rougher wind and to surround her with all that could ten_o excite pleasurable emotion in her soft and benevolent mind. Her health, an_ven the tranquillity of her hitherto constant spirit, had been shaken by wha_he had gone through. During the two years that had elapsed previous to thei_arriage my father had gradually relinquished all his public functions; an_mmediately after their union they sought the pleasant climate of Italy, an_he change of scene and interest attendant on a tour through that land o_onders, as a restorative for her weakened frame.
  • From Italy they visited Germany and France. I, their eldest child, was born a_aples, and as an infant accompanied them in their rambles. I remained fo_everal years their only child. Much as they were attached to each other, the_eemed to draw inexhaustible stores of affection from a very mine of love t_estow them upon me. My mother's tender caresses and my father's smile o_enevolent pleasure while regarding me are my first recollections. I was thei_laything and their idol, and something better—their child, the innocent an_elpless creature bestowed on them by heaven, whom to bring up to good, an_hose future lot it was in their hands to direct to happiness or misery,
  • according as they fulfilled their duties towards me. With this dee_onsciousness of what they owed towards the being to which they had give_ife, added to the active spirit of tenderness that animated both, it may b_magined that while during every hour of my infant life I received a lesson o_atience, of charity, and of self-control, I was so guided by a silken cor_hat all seemed but one train of enjoyment to me.
  • For a long time I was their only care. My mother had much desired to have _aughter, but I continued their single offspring. When I was about five year_ld, while making an excursion beyond the frontiers of Italy, they passed _eek on the shores of the Lake of Como. Their benevolent disposition ofte_ade them enter the cottages of the poor. This, to my mother, was more than _uty; it was a necessity, a passion—remembering what she had suffered, and ho_he had been relieved—for her to act in her turn the guardian angel to th_fflicted. During one of their walks a poor cot in the foldings of a val_ttracted their notice as being singularly disconsolate, while the number o_alf-clothed children gathered about it spoke of penury in its worst shape.
  • One day, when my father had gone by himself to Milan, my mother, accompanie_y me, visited this abode. She found a peasant and his wife, hard working,
  • bent down by care and labour, distributing a scanty meal to five hungry babes.
  • Among these there was one which attracted my mother far above all the rest.
  • She appeared of a different stock. The four others were dark-eyed, hard_ittle vagrants; this child was thin and very fair. Her hair was the brightes_iving gold, and despite the poverty of her clothing, seemed to set a crown o_istinction on her head. Her brow was clear and ample, her blue eye_loudless, and her lips and the moulding of her face so expressive o_ensibility and sweetness that none could behold her without looking on her a_f a distinct species, a being heaven-sent, and bearing a celestial stamp i_ll her features.
  • The peasant woman, perceiving that my mother fixed eyes of wonder an_dmiration on this lovely girl, eagerly communicated her history. She was no_er child, but the daughter of a Milanese nobleman. Her mother was a Germa_nd had died on giving her birth. The infant had been placed with these goo_eople to nurse: they were better off then. They had not been long married,
  • and their eldest child was but just born. The father of their charge was on_f those Italians nursed in the memory of the antique glory of Italy—one amon_he schiavi ognor frementi, who exerted himself to obtain the liberty of hi_ountry. He became the victim of its weakness. Whether he had died or stil_ingered in the dungeons of Austria was not known. His property wa_onfiscated; his child became an orphan and a beggar. She continued with he_oster parents and bloomed in their rude abode, fairer than a garden ros_mong dark-leaved brambles.
  • When my father returned from Milan, he found playing with me in the hall o_ur villa a child fairer than a pictured cherub—a creature who seemed to she_adiance from her looks and whose form and motions were lighter than th_hamois of the hills. The apparition was soon explained. With his permissio_y mother prevailed on her rustic guardians to yield their charge to her. The_ere fond of the sweet orphan. Her presence had seemed a blessing to them, bu_t would be unfair to her to keep her in poverty and want when Providenc_fforded her such powerful protection. They consulted their village priest,
  • and the result was that Elizabeth Lavenza became the inmate of my parents'
  • house—my more than sister—the beautiful and adored companion of all m_ccupations and my pleasures.
  • Everyone loved Elizabeth. The passionate and almost reverential attachmen_ith which all regarded her became, while I shared it, my pride and m_elight. On the evening previous to her being brought to my home, my mothe_ad said playfully, "I have a pretty present for my Victor—tomorrow he shal_ave it." And when, on the morrow, she presented Elizabeth to me as he_romised gift, I, with childish seriousness, interpreted her words literall_nd looked upon Elizabeth as mine—mine to protect, love, and cherish. Al_raises bestowed on her I received as made to a possession of my own. W_alled each other familiarly by the name of cousin. No word, no expressio_ould body forth the kind of relation in which she stood to me—my more tha_ister, since till death she was to be mine only.