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.