By Henry S. Olcott
[From OLD DIARY LEAVES, III, pages 9-10.]
I have elsewhere mentioned HPB's inheritance of the fiery temper of the Dolgoroukis, and the terrible struggle it was to even measurably subdue her irritability. I will now tell a story which I had from her own lips, and the incidents of which had a most lasting effect upon her through life.
In childhood, her temper was practically unrestrained, her noble father petting and idolizing her after the loss of his wife. When, in her eleventh year, the time came for her to leave his regimen and pass under the management of her maternal grandmother (the wife of General Fadeyef, born Princess Dolgorouki), she was warned that such unrestrained liberty would no longer be allowed her, and she was more or less awed by the dignified character of her relative.
On one occasion, in a fit of temper at her nurse, a faithful old serf who had been brought up in the family, she struck her a blow in the face. This coming to her grandmother's knowledge, the child was summoned, questioned, and confessed her fault.
The grandmother at once had the castle bell rung to call in all the servants of the household of whom there were scores. When they were assembled in the great hall, she told her that she had acted as no lady should, in unjustly striking a helpless serf who would not dare defend herself; and she ordered her to beg her pardon and kiss her hand in token of sincerity.
The child at first, crimson with shame, was disposed to rebel, but the old lady told her that if she did not instantly obey she would send her from her house in disgrace. She added that no real noble lady would refuse to make amends for a wrong to a servant, especially one who by a lifetime of faithful service had earned the confidence and love of her superiors. Naturally generous and kind-hearted towards the people of the lower classes, the impetuous child burst into tears, kneeled before the old nurse, kissed her hand, and asked to be forgiven.
Needless to say, she was thenceforth fairly worshipped by the retainers of the family. She told me that that lesson was worth everything to her, and it had taught her the principle of doing justice to those whose social rank made them incapable of compelling aggressors to do rightly towards them.