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V I L L E T T E. 



By CURRER BELL, 

AUTHOR OF " JANE EYRE," " SHIRLEY," ETC. 



IN THKEE VOLUMES. 



VOL. II. 



LONDON: 

SMITH, ELDER & CO., 65, CORNHILL. 
SMITH, TAYLOR & CO., BOMBAY. 



1853. 

The Author of this work reserves the right of translating it. 



London : 

Printed by Stewart and Murray', 

Old Bailey. 



CONTENTS OF VOL. II. 



Chapter Page 

XVII. — Auld Lang Syne 1 

XVIIL— La Terrasse 29 

XIX. — We quarrel 47 

XX.— The Cleopatra 61 

XXI.— The Concert 85 

XXIL— Reaction 126 

XXILL— The Letter 160 

XXIV.— Yashti 179 

XXV. — M. de Bassompierre .... 205 

XXVI. — The Little Countess .... 232 

XXVn.— A Burial 259 

XXVIII.— The Hotel Crecy . • ... 288 



VILLETTE. 



CHAPTER XVII. 



AULD LANG SYNE. 



Where my soul went during that swoon I 
cannot tell. Whatever she saw, or wherever she 
travelled in her trance on that strange night, she 
kept her own secret; never whispering a word to 
Memory, and baffling Imagination by an indis- 
soluble silence. She may have gone upward, and 
come in sight of her eternal home, hoping for leave 
to rest now, and deeming that her painful union 
with matter was at last dissolved. While she so 
deemed, an angel may have warned her away from 
heaven's threshold, and, guiding her weeping down, 
have bound her, once more, all shuddering and 
unwilling, to that poor frame, cold and wasted, of 

VOL. II. B 



VILLETTE. 



whose companionship she was grown more than 
weary. 

I know she re-entered her prison with pain, with 
reluctance, with a moan and a long shiver. The 
divorced mates, Spirit and Substance, were hard to 
re-unite : they greeted each other, not in an embrace, 
but a racking sort of struggle. The returning sense 
of sight came upon me, red, as if it swam in blood ; 
suspended hearing rushed back loud, like thunder ; 
consciousness revived in fear: I sat up appalled, 
wondering into what region, amongst what strange 
beings I was waking. At first I knew nothing 
I looked on : a wall was not a wall — a lamp not 
a lamp. I should have understood what we call 
a ghost, as well as I did the commonest object; 
which is another way of intimating that all my eye 
rested on struck it as spectral. But the faculties 
soon settled each in its place ; the life-machine 
presently resumed its wonted and regular working. 

Still, I knew not where I was ; only in time 
I saw I had been removed from the spot where 
I fell : I lay on no portico-step ; night and 
tempest were excluded by walls, windows, and 
ceiling. Into some house I had been carried, — but 
what house ? 



AULD LANG SYNE. O 

I could only think of the pensionnat in the Rue 
Fossette. Still half-dreaming, I tried hard to dis- 
cover in what room they had put me ; whether the 
great dormitory, or one of the little dormitories. 
I was puzzled, because I could not make the 
glimpses of furniture I saw, accord with my know- 
ledge of any of these apartments. The empty white 
beds were wanting, and the long line of large 
windows. " Surely," thought I, " it is not to 
Madame Beck's own chamber they have carried 
me ! " And here my eye fell on an easy chair 
covered with blue damask. Other seats, cushioned 
to match, dawned on me by degrees ; and at last 
I took in the complete fact of a pleasant parlour, 
with a wood-fire on a clear-shining hearth, a carpet 
where arabesques of bright blue relieved a ground 
of shaded fawn ; pale walls over which a slight but 
endless garland of azure forget-me-nots ran mazed 
and bewildered amongst myriad gold leaves and 
tendrils. A gilded mirror filled up the space 
between two windows, curtained amply with blue 
damask. In this mirror I saw nivself laid, not in 
bed, but on a sofa. I looked spectral ; my eyes 
larger and more hollow, my hair darker than was 
natural, by contrast with my thin and ashen face. 



4 VILLETTE. 

It was obvious, not only from the furniture, but 
from the position of windows, doors, and fire-place, 
that this was an unknown room in an unknown 
house. 

Hardly less plain was it that my brain was not 
yet settled ; for, as I gazed at the blue arm-chair, 
it appeared to grow familiar ; so did a certain 
scroll-couch, and not less so the round centre-table, 
with a blue covering, bordered with autumn-tinted 
foliage ; and, above all, two little footstools with 
worked covers, and a small ebony-framed chair» 
of which the seat and back were also worked with 
groups of brilliant flowers on a dark ground. 

Struck with these things, I explored further. 
Strange to say, old acquaintance were all about 
me, and" auld lang syne" smiled out of every nook. 
There were two oval miniatures over the mantel- 
piece, of which I knew by heart the pearls about 
the high and powdered " heads ;" the velvets circling 
the white throats ; the swell of the full muslin ker- 
chiefs ; the pattern of the lace sleeve-ruffles. Upon 
the mantel-shelf there were two china vases, some 
relics of a diminutive tea-service, as smooth as 
enamel and as thin as egg-shell, and a white 
centre-ornament, a classic group in alabaster, pre- 



AULD LANG SYNE. O 

served under glass. Of all these things I could 
have told the peculiarities, numbered the flaws or 
cracks, like any clairvoyante. Above all, there was 
a pair of handscreens, with elaborate pencil-draw- 
ings finished like line-engravings ; these, my very 
eyes ached at beholding again, recalling hours when 
they had followed, stroke by stroke and touch by 
touch, a tedious, feeble, finical, school-girl pencil 
held in these fingers, now so skeleton-like. 

Where was I? Not only in what spot of the 
world, but in what year of our Lord ? For all these 
objects were of past days, and of a distant country. 
Ten years ago I bade them good by ; since my 
fourteenth year they and I had never met. I gasped 
audibly, " Where am I ?" 

A shape hitherto unnoticed, stirred, rose, came 
forward ; a shape inharmonious with the environ- 
ment, serving only to complicate the riddle further. 
This was no more than a sort of native bonne, in 
a common-place bonne's cap and print-dress. She 
spoke neither French nor English, and I could get 
no intelligence from her, not understanding her 
phrases of dialect. But she bathed my temples and 
forehead with some cool and perfumed water, and 
then she heightened the cushion on which I reclined,. 



6 VILLETTE. 

made signs that I was not to speak, and resumed 
her post at the foot of the sofa. 

She was busy knitting ; her eyes thus drawn from 
me, I could gaze on her without interruption. I did 
mightily wonder how she came there, or what she 
could have to do among the scenes, or with the days 
of my girlhood. Still more I marvelled what those 
scenes and days could now have to do with me. 

Too weak to scrutinize thoroughly the mystery, I 
tried to settle it by saying it was a mistake, a dream, 
a fever-fit ; and yet I knew there could be no mis- 
take, and that I was not sleeping, and I believed I 
was sane. I wished the room had not been so well 
lighted, that I might not so clearly have seen the 
little pictures, the ornaments, the screens, the worked 
chair. All these objects, as well as the blue-damask 
furniture, were, in fact, precisely the same, in every 
minutest detail, with those I so well remembered, and 
with which I had been so thoroughly intimate, in the 
drawing-room of my godmother's house at Bretton. 
Methought the apartment only was changed, being 
of different proportions and dimensions. 

I thought of Bedreddin Hassan, transported in his 
sleep from Cairo to the gates of Damascus. Had a 
Genius stooped his dark wing down the storm to 



AULD LANG SYNE. / 

whose stress I had succumbed, and gathering me 
from the church-steps, and " rising high into the 
air," as the eastern tale said, had he borne me over 
land and ocean, and laid me quietly down beside a 
hearth of Old England ? But no ; I knew the fire 
of that hearth burned before its Lares no more — it 
went out long ago, and the household gods had been 
carried elsewhere. 

The bonne turned again to survey me, and seeing 
my eyes wide open, and, I suppose, deeming their 
expression perturbed and excited, she put down her 
knitting. I saw her busied for a moment at a little 
stand ; she poured out water, and measured drops 
from a phial : glass in hand, she approached me. 
What dark-tinged draught might she now be offer- 
ing ? what Genii-elixir or Magi-distillation ? 

It was too late to inquire — --I had swallowed it pas- 
sively, and at once. A tide of quiet thought now 
came gently caressing my brain ; softer and softer 
rose the flow, with tepid undulations smoother than 
balm. The pain of weakness left my limbs, my 
muscles slept. I lost power to move ; but, losing at 
the same time wish, it was no privation. That kind 
bonne placed a screen between me and the lamp ; I 
saw her rise to do this, but do not remember seeing 



8 VILLETTE. 

her resume her place : in the interval between the 
two acts, I " fell on sleep." 



At waking, lo ! all was again changed. The light 
of high day surrounded me ; not, indeed, a warm, 
summer light, but the leaden gloom of raw and 
blustering* autumn. I felt sure now that I was in 
the pensionnat — sure by the beating rain on the 
casement ; sure by the " wuther " of wind amongst 
trees, denoting a garden outside ; sure by the chill, 
the whiteness, the solitude, amidst which I lay. I 
say whiteness — for the dimity curtains, dropped before 
a French bed, bounded my view. 

I lifted them ; I looked out. My eye, prepared to 
take in the range of a long, large, and white-washed 
chamber, blinked bafHed, on encountering the limited 
area of a small cabinet — a cabinet with sea-green 
walls ; also, instead of five wide and naked windows, 
there was one high lattice, shaded with muslin fes- 
toons : instead of two dozen little stands of painted 
wood, each holding a basin and an ewer, there was a 
toilette table dressed, like a lady for a ball, in a 
white robe over a pink skirt ; a polished and large 
glass crowned, and a pretty pincushion frilled with 



AULD LANG SYNE. ^ 

lace adorned it. This toilette, together with a small, 
low, green and white chintz arm-chair, a wash-stand 
topped with a marble slab, and supplied with utensils 
of pale-green ware, sufficiently furnished the tiny 
chamber. 

Reader, I felt alarmed! Why? you will ask. 
What was there in this simple and somewhat pretty 
sleeping-closet to startle the most timid? Merely 
this — These articles of furniture could not be real, 
solid arm-chairs, looking-glasses, and wash-stands — 
they must be the ghosts of such articles ; or, if this 
were denied as too wild an hypothesis — and, con- 
founded as I was, I did denv it — there remained but 
to conclude that I had myself passed into an abnor- 
mal state of mind ; in short, that I was very ill and 
delirious : and even then, mine was the strangest 
figment with which delirium had ever harassed a 
victim. 

I knew — I was obliged to know — the green chintz 
of that little chair ; the little snug chair itself, the 
carved, shining-black, foliated frame of that glass; 
the smooth, milky-green of the china vessels on the 
stand ; the very stand too, with its top of gray mar- 
ble, splintered at one corner ; — all these I was com- 
pelled to recognize and to hail, as last night I had, 



10 VILLETTE. 

perforce, recognized and hailed the rosewood, the 
drapery, the porcelain, of the drawing-room. 

Bretton ! Bretton ! and ten years ago shone re- 
flected in that mirror. And why did Bretton and 
my fourteenth year haunt me thus? Why, if they 
came at all, did they not return complete? Why 
hovered before my distempered vision the mere fur- 
niture, while the rooms and the locality were gone? 
As to that pin-cushion made of crimson satin, orna- 
mented with gold beads and frilled with thread-lace, 
I had the same right to know it as to know the 
screens — I had made it myself. Rising with a 
start from the bed, I took the cushion in my hand 
and examined it. There was the cipher "L. L. B." 
formed in gold beads, and surrounded with an 
oval wreath embroidered in white silk. These 
were the initials of my godmother's name — Louisa 
Lucy Bretton. 

Am I in England ? Am I at Bretton? I muttered ; 
and hastily pulling up the blind with which the lattice 
was shrouded, I looked out to try and discover where 
I was ; half-prepared to meet the calm, old, handsome 
buildings and clean gray pavement of St. Ann's 
Street, and to see at the end, the towers of the 
minster : or, if otherwise, fully expectant of a town 



AULD LANG SYNE. 11 

view somewhere, a rue in Villette, if not a street in 
a pleasant and ancient English city. 

I looked, on the contrary, through a frame of 
leafage, clustering round the high lattice, and forth 
thence to a grassy mead-like level, a lawn-terrace 
with trees rising from the lower ground beyond — 
high forest-trees, such as I had not seen for many a 
day. They were now groaning under the gale of 
October, and between their trunks I traced the line 
of an avenue, where yellow leaves lay in heaps and 
drifts, or were whirled singly before the sweeping- 
west wind. Whatever landscape might lie further 
must have been flat, and these tall beeches shut it 
out. The place seemed secluded, and was to me 
quite strange : I did not know it at all. 

Once more I lay down. My bed stood in a little 
alcove; on turning my face to the wall, the room 
with its bewildering accompaniments became ex- 
cluded. Excluded ? No ! For as I arranged my 
position in this hope, behold, on the green space 
between the divided and looped-up curtains, hung a 
broad, gilded picture-frame enclosing a portrait. It 
was drawn — well drawn, though but a sketch — in 
water-colours ; a head, a boy's head, fresh, life-like, 
speaking, and animated. It seemed a youth of 



12 VILLETTE. 

sixteen, fair-complexioned, with sanguine health in 
his cheek ; hair long, not dark, and with a sunny 
sheen; penetrating eyes, an arch mouth, and a gay 
smile. On the whole a most pleasant face to look 
at, especially for those claiming a right to that 
youth's affection — parents, for instance, or sisters. 
Any romantic little school-girl might almost have 
loved it in its frame. Those eyes looked as if when 
somewhat older they would flash a lightning response 
to love : I cannot tell whether they kept in store 
the steady-beaming shine of faith. For whatever 
sentiment met him in form too facile, his lips 
menaced, beautifully but surely, caprice and light 
esteem. 

Striving to take each new discovery as quietly as 
I could, I whispered to myself — 

" Ah ! that portrait used to hang in the breakfast- 
room, over the mantel-piece : somewhat too high, as 
I thought. I well remember how I used to mount 
a music-stool for the purpose of unhooking it, hold- 
ing it in my hand, and searching into those bonny 
wells of eyes, whose glance under their hazel lashes 
seemed like a pencilled laugh ; and well I liked to 
note the colouring of the cheek, and the expression 
of the mouth." I hardly believed fancy could im- 



AULD LANG SYNE. 13 

prove on the curve of that mouth, or of the chin; 
even my ignorance knew that both were beautiful, 
and pondered, perplexed over this doubt: "How it 
was that what charmed so much, could at the same 
time so keenly pain?" Once, byway of test, I took 
little Missy Home, and, lifting her in my arms, told 
her to look at the picture. 

" Do you like it, Polly ? " I asked. She never 
answered, but gazed long, and at last a darkness 
went trembling through her sensitive eye, as she said, 
" Put me down." So I put her down, saying to 
myself: " The child feels it too." 

All these things did I now think over, adding, 
" He had his faults, yet scarce ever was a finer 
nature; liberal, suave, impressible." My reflec- 
tions closed in an audibly pronounced word, 
" Graham !" 

"Graham!" echoed a sudden voice at the bedside. 
" Do you want Graham?" 

I looked. The plot was but thickening; the 
wonder but culminating. If it was strange to see 
that well-remembered pictured form on the wall, 
still stranger was it to turn and behold the equally 
well-remembered living form opposite — a woman, a 
lady, most real and substantial, tall, well-attired, 



14 VILLETTE. 

wearing widow's silk, and sucli a cap as best became 
her matron and motherly braids of hair. Hers, too, 
was a good face ; too marked, perhaps, now for 
beauty, but not for sense or character. She was 
little changed ; something sterner, something more 
robust — but she was my godmother : still the dis- 
tinct vision of Mrs. Bretton. 

I kept quiet, yet internally I was much agitated : 
my pulse fluttered, and the blood left my cheek, 
which turned cold. 

" Madam, where am I ? " I inquired. 

" In a very safe asylum ; well protected for the 
present: make your mind quite easy till you get a 
little better; you look ill this morning." 

" I am so entirely bewildered, I do not know 
whether I can trust my senses at all, or whether 
they are misleading me in every particular: but you 
speak English, do you not, madam?" 

* I should think you might hear that : it would 
puzzle me to hold a long discourse in French." 

" You do not come from England?" 

" I am lately arrived thence. Have you been 
long in this country? You seem to know my son?" 

" Do I, madam ? Perhaps I do. Your son — 
the picture there?" 



AITLD LANG SYNE. 15 

" That is his portrait as a youth. While looking 
at it, you pronounced his name." 
"Graham Bretton?" 
She nodded. 
" I speak to Mrs. Bretton, formerly of Bretton, 

shire ? " 

" Quite right ; and you, I am told, are an 
English teacher in a foreign chool here : my son 
recognized you as such." 

" How was I found, madam, and by whom 1 " 

"My son shall tell you that by-and-by," said she ; 
" but at present you are too confused and weak for 
conversation : try to eat some breakfast, and then 
sleep." 

Notwithstanding all I had undergone — the bodily 
fatigue, the perturbation of spirits, the exposure to 
weather — it seemed that I was better : the fever, the 
real malady which had oppressed my frame, was 
abating; for, whereas during the last nine days I 
had taken no solid food, and suffered from continual 
thirst, this morning, on breakfast being offered, 
I experienced a craving for nourishment : an inward 
faintness which caused me eagerly to taste the tea 
this lady offered, and to eat the morsel of dry toast 
she allowed in accompaniment. It was only a 



16 VILLETTE. 

morsel, but it sufficed ; keeping up my strength till 
some two or three hours afterwards, when the bonne 
brought me a little cup of broth and a biscuit. 

As evening began to darken, and the ceaseless 
blast still blew wild and cold, and the rain streamed 
on, deluge-like, I grew weary — very weary of my bed. 
The room, though pretty, was small : I felt it 
confining ; I longed for a change. The increasing 
chill and gathering gloom, too, depressed me ; I 
wanted to see — to feel firelight. Besides, I kept 
thinking of the son of that tall matron : when 
should I see him ? Certainly not till I left my room. 

At last the bonne came to make my bed for the 
night. She prepared to wrap me in a blanket and 
place me in the little chintz chair; but, declining 
these attentions, I proceeded to dress myself. The 
business was just achieved, and I was sitting down to 
take breath, when Mrs. Bretton once more appeared. 

" Dressed !" she exclaimed, smiling with that 
smile I so well knew — a pleasant smile, though not 
soft; — "You are quite better then? Quite strong 
—eh?" 

She spoke to me so much as of old she used to 
speak that I almost fancied she was beginning to 
know me. There was the same sort of patronage 



AULD LANG SYNE. 17 

in her voice and manner that, as a girl, I had al- 
ways experienced from her — a patronage I yielded to 
and even liked ; it was not founded on conventional 
grounds of superior wealth or station (in the last 
particular there had never been any inequality; her 
degree was mine) but on natural reasons of physical 
advantage : it was the shelter the tree gives the herb, 
I put a request without further ceremony. 

" Do let me go down stairs, madam ; I am so 
cold and dull here." 

" I desire nothing better, if you are strong enough 
to bear the change," was her rej}ly. " Come then ; 
here is an arm." And she offered me hers : I 
took it, and we descended one flight of carpeted 
steps to a landing where a tall door, standing open, 
gave admission into the blue damask room. How 
pleasant it was in its air of perfect domestic comfort! 
How warm in its amber lamp-light and vermilion 
fire-flush ! To render the picture perfect, tea stood 
ready on the table — an English tea, whereof the 
whole shining service glanced at me familiarly; 
from the solid silver urn, of antique pattern, and the 
massive pot of the same metal, to the thin porcelain 
cups, dark with purple and gilding-. I knew the 
very seed-cake of peculiar form, baked in a peculiar 

VOL. II. c 



18 VILLETTE. 

mould, which alv-ays had a place on the tea-table at 
Bretton. Graham liked it, and there it was as of 
yore — set before Graham's plate with the silver 
knife and fork beside it. Graham was then expected 
to tea : Graham was now, perhaps, in the house ; 
ere many minutes I might see him, 

" Sit down — sit down," said my conductress, as 
my step faltered a little in passing to the hearth. 
She seated me on the sofa, but I soon passed behind 
it, saying the fire was too hot ; in its shade I found 
another seat which suited me better. Mrs. Bretton 
was never wont to make a fuss about any person or 
anything; without remonstrance she suffered me 
to have my own way. She made the tea, and she 
took up the newspaper. I liked to watch every 
action of my godmother; all her movements were 
so young : she must have been now above fifty, yet 
neither her sinews nor her spirit seemed yet touched 
by the rust of age. Though portly, she was alert, 
and though serene, she was at times impetuous — 
good health and an excellent temperament kept her 
green as in her spring. 

While she read, I perceived she listened — 
listened for her son. She was not the woman ever 
to confess herself uneasy, but there was yet no lull 



AULD LANG SYNE. 19 

in the weather, and if Graham were out in 
that hoarse wind — roaring still unsatisfied — I 
well knew his mother's heart would be out with 
him. 

" Ten minutes "behind his time," said she, looking 
at her watch; then, in another minute, a lifting of 
her eyes from the page, and a slight inclination of 
her head towards the door, denoted that she heard 
some sound. Presently her brow cleared; and then 
even my ear, less practised, caught the iron clash of a 
gate swung to, steps on gravel, lastly the door-bell. 
He was come. His mother filled the tea-pot from 
the urn, she drew nearer the hearth the stuffed and 
cushioned blue chair — her own chair by right, but 
I saw there was one who might with impunity 
usurp it. And when that one came up the stairs — 
which he soon did, after, I suppose, some such 
attention to the toilet as the wild and wet night 
rendered necessary, and strode straight in — 

"Is it you, Graham?" said his mother, hiding a 
glad smile and speaking curtly, 

"Who else should it be, mama?" demanded the 
Unpunctual, possessing himself irreverently of the 
abdicated throne. 

" Don't you deserve cold tea, for being late ?" 



20 VILLETTE. 

"I shall not get my deserts, for the urn sings 
cheerily." 

" Wheel yourself to table, lazy boy : no seat will 
serve you but mine ; if you had one spark of a sense 
of propriety, you would always leave that chair for 
the Old Lady." 

" So I should ; only the dear Old Lady persists in 
leaving it for me. How is your patient, mama?" 

"Will she come forward and speak for herself?" 
said Mrs. Bretton, turning to my corner; and at 
this invitation, forward I came. Graham courte- 
ously rose up to greet me. He stood tall on the hearth, 
a figure justifying his mother's unconcealed pride. 

"So you are come down," said he; " you must 
be better then — much better. I scarcely expected 
we should meet thus, or here. I was alarmed last 
night, and if I had not been forced to hurry away to 
a dying patient, I certainly would not have left you ; 
but my mother herself is something of a doctress, 
and Martha an excellent nurse. I saw the case was 
a fainting-fit, not necessarily dangerous. What 
brought it on, I have yet to learn, and all particu- 
lars ; meantime, I trust you really do feel better." 

" Much better," I said calmly. " Much better, I 
thank you, Dr. John." 



AULD LANG SYNE. 21 

For, reader, this tall young man — this darling- 
son — this host of mine — this Graham Bretton, was 
Dr. John : he, and no other ; and, what is more, 
I ascertained this identity scarcely with surprise. 
What is more, when I heard Graham's step on the 
stairs, I knew what manner of figure would enter, 
and for whose aspect to prepare my eyes. The dis- 
covery was not of to-day, its dawn had penetrated 
my perceptions long since. Of course I remem- 
bered young Bretton well ; and though ten years 
(from sixteen to twenty-six) may greatly change the 
boy as they mature him to the man, yet they could 
bring no such utter difference as would suffice wholly 
to blind my eyes, or baffle my memory. Dr. John 
Graham Bretton retained still an affinity to the 
youth of sixteen : he had his eyes ; he had some of 
his features; to wit, all the excellently-moulded 
lower half of the face ; I found him out soon. I 
first recognized him on that occasion, noted several 
chapters back, when my unguardedly-fixed attention 
had drawn on me the mortification of an implied re- 
buke. Subsequent observation confirmed, in every 
point, that early surmise. I traced in the gesture, 
the port, and the habits of his manhood, all his boy's 
promise. I heard in his now deep tones the accent 



22 VILLETTE. 

of former clays. Certain turns of phrase, peculiar 
to him of old, were peculiar to him still; and so was 
many a trick of eye and lip, many a smile, many a 
sudden ray levelled from the irid, under his well- 
charactered brow. 

To say anything on the subject, to hint at my dis- 
covery, had not suited my habits of thought, or as- 
similated with my system of feeling. On the con- 
trary, I had preferred to keep the matter to myself. 
I liked entering his presence covered with a cloud 
he had not seen through, while he stood before 
me under a ray of special illumination, which shone 
all partial over his head, trembled about his feet, and 
cast light no farther. 

Well I knew that to him it could make little dif- 
ference, were I to come forward and announce " This 
is Lucy Snowe ! ' So I kept back in my teacher's 
place ; and as he never asked my name, so I never 
gave it. He heard me called " Miss," and " Miss 
Lucy ; " he never heard the surname, " Snowe." As 
to spontaneous recognition — though I, perhaps, was 
still less changed thanhe — the idea never approached 
his mind, and why should I suggest it? 

During tea, Dr. John was kind, as it was his na- 
ture to be ; that meal over, and the tray carried out, 



AULD LANG SYNE. 23 

he made a cosy arrangement of the cushions in a 
corner of the sofa, and obliged me to settle 
amongst them. He and his mother also drew to 
the fire, and ere we had sat ten minutes, I caught 
the eye of the latter fastened steadily upon me. 
Women are certainly quicker in some things than 
men. 

" Well," she exclaimed, presently ; "I have seldom 
seen a stronger likeness ! Graham, have you ob- 
served it ? " 

"Observed what? What ails the Old Lady now? 
How you stare, mama ! One would think you had 
an attack of second-sight." 

" Tell me, Graham, of whom does that young lady 
remind you ? " pointing to me. 

" Mama, you put her out of countenance. I often 
tell you abruptness is your fault; remember, too, 
that to you she is a stranger, and does not know 
your ways." 

" Now, when she looks down ; now, when she 
turns sideways, who is she like, Graham ? ' 

" Indeed, mama, since you propound the riddle, I 
think you ought to solve it ! " 

" And you have known her some time, you say — 
ever since you first began to attend the school in the 



24 VILLETTE. 



Rue Fossette ; — yet you never mentioned to me that 
singular resemblance ! " 

" I could not mention a thing of which I never 
thought, and which I do not now acknowledge. 
What can you mean ? " 

" Stupid boy ! look at her." 

Graham did look : but this was not to be endured ; 
I saw how it must end, so I thought it best to antici- 
pate. 

" Dr. John," I said, " has had so much to do and 
think of, since he and I shook hands at our last 
parting in St. Ann's Street, that, while I readily 
found out Mr. Graham Bretton, some months ago, 
it never occurred to me as possible that he should 
recognize Lucy Snowe." 

" Lucy Snowe ! I thought so ! I knew it ! " cried 
Mrs. Bretton. And she at once stepped across the 
hearth and kissed me. Some ladies would, perhaps, 
have made a great bustle upon such a discovery 
without being particularly glad of it ; but it was not 
my godmother's habit to make a bustle, and she 
preferred all sentimental demonstration in bas-relief. 
So she and I got over the surprise with few words 
and a single salute ; yet I daresay she was pleased, 
and I know I was. While we renewed old acquain- 



AL'LD LANG SYNE. 25 

tance, Graham, sitting opposite, silently disposed of 
his paroxysm of astonishment. 

" Mama calls me a stupid boy, and I think I 
am so;" at length he said, " for, upon my honour, 
often as I have seen you, I never once suspected 
this fact: and yet I perceive it all now. Lucy 
Snowe ! To be sure ! I recollect her perfectly, and 
there she sits ; not a doubt of it. But," he added, 
" you surely have not known me as an old acquain- 
tance all this time, and never mentioned it?" 

u That I have," was my answer. 

Dr. John commented not. I supposed he re- 
garded my silence as eccentric, but he was indulgent 
in refraining from censure. I dare say, too, he 
would have deemed it impertinent to have interro- 
gated me very closely, to have asked me the why and 
wherefore of my reserve ; and, though he might 
feel a little curious, the importance of the case was 
by no means such as to tempt curiosity to infringe 
on discretion. 

For my part, I just ventured to inquire whether 
he remembered the circumstance of my once looking 
at him very fixedly ; for the slight annoyance he had 
betrayed on that occasion, still lingered sore on my 
mind. 



26 



VILLETTE. 



"I think I do!" said lie: "I think I was even 
cross with you." 

"You considered me a little bold, perhaps?" I 
inquired. 

" Not at all. Only, shy and retiring as your 
general manner was, I wondered what personal or 
facial enormity in me proved so magnetic to your 
usually averted eyes." 

" You see how it was, now?" 

" Perfectly." 

And here Mrs. Bretton broke in with many, many 
questions about past times ; and for her satisfaction I 
had to recur to gone-by troubles, to explain causes 
of seeming estrangement, to touch on single-handed 
conflict with Life, with Death, with Grief, with Fate. 
Dr. John listened, saying little. He and she then told 
me of changes they had known: even with them, all 
had not gone smoothly, and fortune had retrenched 
her once abundant gifts. But so courageous a mother, 
with such a champion in her son, was well fitted to 
fight a good fight with the world, and to prevail 
ultimately. Dr. John himself was one of those 
on whose birth benign planets have certainly smiled. 
Adversity might set against him her most sullen 
front : he was the man to beat her down with smiles. 



AULD LANG SYNE. 



27 



Strong and cheerful, and firm and courteous ; not 
rash, yet valiant; he was the aspirant to woo Destiny 
herself, and to win from her stone eye-balls a beam 
almost loving. 

In the profession he had adopted, his success was 
now quite decided. Within the last three months, 
he had taken this house (a small chateau, they told 
me, about half a league without the Porte de Crecy) ; 
this country site being chosen for the sake of his 
mother's health, with which town air did not now 
agree. Hither he had invited Mrs. Bretton, and 
she, on leaving England, had brought with her such 
residue furniture of the former St. Ann's Street man- 
sion, as she had thought fit to keep unsold. Hence 
my bewilderment at the phantoms of chairs, and the 
wraiths of looking glasses, tea urns, and tea cups. 

As the clock struck eleven, Dr. John stopped his 
mother. 

" Miss Snowe must retire now," he said ; " she is 
beginning to look very pale. To-morrow I will 
venture to put some questions respecting the cause 
of her loss of health. She is much changed indeed, 
since last July, when I saw her enact with no little 
spirit, the part of a very killing fine gentleman. 
As to last night's catastrophe, I am sure thereby 



28 VILLETTE. 

hangs a tale, but we will inquire no further this 
evening. Good night, Miss Lucy." 

And so, he kindly led me to the door, and holding 
a wax candle, lighted me up the one flight of steps. 

When I had said my prayers, and when I was 
undressed and laid down, I felt that I still had 
friends. Friends, not professing vehement attach- 
ment, not offering the tender solace of well-matched 
and congenial relationship ; on whom, therefore, but 
moderate demand of affection was to be made, of 
w^hom but moderate expectation formed; but towards 
whom, my heart softened instinctively and yearned 
with an importunate gratitude, which I entreated 
Reason betimes to check. 

" Do not let me think of them too often, too much 
too fondly," I implored; " let me be content with a 
temperate draught of this living stream : let me not 
run athirst, and apply passionately to its welcome 
waters : let me not imagine in them a sweeter taste 
than earth's fountains know. Oh ! would to God ! 
I may be enabled to feel enough sustained by an 
occasional, amicable intercourse, rare, brief, un- 
engrossing and tranquil : quite tranquil !' 

Still repeating this word, I turned to my pillow ; 
and, still repeating it, I steeped that pillow with tears. 



LA TERRASSE. 29 



CHAPTER XVIII. 



LA TERRASSE. 



These struggles with the natural character, the 
strong native bent of the heart, may seem futile and 
fruitless, but in the end they do good. They tend, 
however slightly, to give the actions, the conduct, 
that turn which Reason approves, and which 
Feeling, perhaps, too often opposes : they certainly 
make a difference in the general tenor of a life, and 
enable it to be better regulated, more equable, 
quieter on the surface ; and it is on the surface only 
the common gaze will fall. As to what lies below, 
leave that with God. Man, your equal, weak as 
you, and not fit to be your judge, may be shut out 
thence: take it to your Maker — show Him the 
secrets of the spirit He gave — ask Him how you are 
to bear the pains He has appointed — kneel in His 
presence, and pray with faith for light in darkness, 



30 VILLETTE. 

for strength in piteous weakness, for patience in 
extreme need. Certainty, at some hour, though 
perhaps not your hour, the waiting waters will stir ; 
in some shape, though perhaps not the shape you 
dreamed, which your heart loved, and for which it 
bled, the healing herald will descend. The cripple 
and the blind, and the dumb, and the possessed, will 
be led to bathe. Herald, come quickly ! Thousands 
lie round the pool, weeping and despairing, to see 
it, through slow years, stagnant. Long are j the 
" times " of Heaven : the orbits of angel messengers 
seem wide to mortal vision ; they may en-ring ages : 
the cycle of one departure and return may clasp 
unnumbered generations ; and dust, kindling to 
brief suffering life, and, through pain, passing back 
to dust, may meanwhile perish out of memory again, 
and yet again. To how many maimed and mourn- 
ing millions is the first and sole angel visitant, him 
easterns call Azrael. 

I tried to get up next morning, but while I was 
dressing, and at intervals drinking cold water from 
the carafe on my washstand, with design to brace up 
that trembling weakness which made dressing so 
difficult, in came Mrs. Bretton. 

" Here is an absurdity ! " was her morning accost. 



LA TERRASSE. 31 

" Not so," she added, and dealing with me at once 
in her own brusque, energetic fashion — that fashion 
which I used formerly to enjoy seeing- applied to 
her son, and by him vigorously resisted — in two 
minutes she consigned me captive to the French 
bed. 

" There you lie till afternoon," said she. " My 
boy left orders before he went out that such should 
be the case, and I can assure you my son is master 
and must be obeyed. Presently you shall have 
breakfast." 

Presently she brought that meal — brought it with 
her own active hands — not leaving me to servants. 
She seated herself on the bed while I ate. Now it 
is not everybody, even amongst our respected 
friends and esteemed acquaintance, whom we like 
to have near us, whom we like to watch us, to wait 
on us, to approach us with the proximity of a nurse 
to a patient. It is not every friend whose eye is 
a light in a sick room, whose presence is there 
a solace : but all this was Mrs. Bretton to me ; all 
this she had ever been. Food or drink never 
pleased me so well as when it came through her 
hands. I do not remember the occasion when 
her entrance into a room had not made that room 



32 VILLETTE. 

cheerier. Our natures own predilections and anti- 
pathies alike strange. There are people from whom 
we secretly shrink, whom we would personally avoid, 
though reason confesses that they are good people : 
there are others with faults of temper, &c, evident 
enough, beside whom we live content, as if the air 
about them did us good. My godmother's lively 
black eye and clear brunette cheek, her warm, 
prompt hand, her self-reliant mood, her decided 
bearing, were all beneficial to me as the atmosphere 
of some salubrious climate. Her son used to call 
her "the old lady;" it filled me with pleasant 
wonder to note how the alacrity and power of five- 
and- twenty still breathed from her and around her. 
" I would. bring my work here," she said, as she 
took from me the emptied tea-cup, " and sit with 
you the whole day, if that overbearing John Graham 
had not put his veto upon such a proceeding. 
1 Now, mama,' he said, when he went out, ' take 
notice, you are not to knock up your god-daughter 
with gossip,' and he particularly desired me to 
keep close to my own quarters, and spare you my 
fine company. He says, Lucy, he thinks you have 
had a nervous fever, judging from your look, — is 
that so?" 



LA TERRASSE. 33 



I replied that I did not quite know what my ail- 
ment had been, but that I had certainly suffered 
a good deal, especially in mind. Further, on this 
subject, I did not consider it advisable to dwell, for 
the details of what I had undergone belonged to 
a portion of my existence in which I never expected 
my godmother to take a share. Into what a new 
region would such a confidence have led that hale, 
serene nature ! The difference between her and me 
might be figured by that between the stately ship, 
cruising safe on smooth seas, with its full comple- 
ment of crew, a captain gay and brave, and ven- 
turous and provident; and the life-boat, which most 
days of the year lies dry and solitary in an old, dark 
boat-house, only putting to sea when the billows run 
high in rough weather, when cloud encounters water, 
when danger and death divide between them the 
rule of the great deep. No, the " Louisa Bretton " 
never was out of harbour on such a night, and in 
such a scene : her crew could not conceive it ; so the 
half-drowned life- boat man keeps his own counsel, 
and spins no yarns. 

She left me, and I lay in bed content : it was good 
of Graham to remember me before he went out. 

My day was lonely, but the prospect of coming 

VOL. II. d 



34 VILLETTE. 

evening abridged and cheered it. Then, too, I felt 
weak, and rest seemed welcome; and after the 
morning hours were gone by — those hours which 
always bring, even to the necessarily unoccupied, a 
sense of business to be done, of tasks waiting ful- 
filment, a vague impression of obligation to be 
employed — when this stirring time was past, and 
the silent descent of afternoon hushed housemaid 
steps on the stairs and in the chambers, I then 
passed into a dreamy mood, not unpleasant. 

My calm little room seemed somehow like a cave 
in the sea. There was no colour about it, except that 
white and pale green, suggestive of foam and deep 
water; the blanched cornice was adorned with shell- 
shaped ornaments, and there were white mouldings 
like dolphins in the ceiling-angles. Even that one 
touch of colour visible in the red satin pincushion 
bore affinity to coral; even that dark, shining glass 
might have mirrored a mermaid. When I closed 
my eyes, I heard a gale, subsiding at last, bearing 
upon the house-front like a settling swell upon a 
rock-base. I heard it drawn and withdrawn far, far 
off, like a tide retiring from a shore of the upper 
world — a world so high above that the rush of its 
largest waves, the dash of its fiercest breakers could 



LA TERRASSE. 35 

sound down in this submarine Lome, only like 
murmurs and a lullaby. 

Amidst these dreams came evening*, and then 
Martha brought a light; with her aid I was quickly 
dressed, and, stronger now than in the morning, I 
made my way down to the blue saloon unassisted. 

Dr. John, it appears, had concluded his round of 
professional calls earlier than usual; his form was 
the first object that met my eyes as I entered the 
parlour ; he stood in that window-recess opposite 
the door, reading the close type of a newspaper by 
such dull light as closing day yet gave. The fire 
shone clear, but the lamp stood on the table unlit, 
and tea was not yet brought up. 

As to Mrs. Bretton, my active godmother — who, I 
afterwards found, had been out in the open air all 
day — lay half-reclined in her deep-cushioned chair, 
actually lost in a nap. Her son seeing me, came 
forward. I noticed that he trod carefully, not to 
wake the sleeper; he also spoke low: his mellow 
voice never had any sharpness in it; modulated as at 
present, it was calculated rather to soothe than startle 
slumber. 

" This is a quiet little chateau," he observed, after 
inviting me to sit near the casement, " I don't know 



36 VILLETTE. 

whether you may have noticed it in your walks : 
though, indeed, from the chaussee it is not visible ; 
just a mile beyond the Porte de Crecy, you turn 
down a lane which soon becomes an avenue, and 
that leads you on, through meadow and shade, to the 
very door of this house. It is not a modern place, but 
built somewhat in the old style of the Basse- Ville. 
It is rather a rnanoir than a chateau ; they call it 
' La Terrasse,' because its front rises from a broad 
turfed walk, whence steps lead down a grassy slope 
to the avenue. See yonder! The moon rises: she 
looks well through the tree boles." 

Where, indeed, does the moon not look well? 
What is the scene, confined or expansive, which her 
orb does not hallow? Rosy or fiery, she mounted 
now above a not distant bank ; even while we 
watched her flushed ascent, she cleared to gold, and 
in very brief space, floated up stainless into a now 
calm sky. Did moonlight soften or sadden Dr. 
Bretton? Did it touch him with romance? I think 
it did. Albeit of no sighing mood, he sighed in 
watching it: sighed to himself quietly. No need to 
ponder the cause or the course of that sigh ; I knew 
it was wakened by beauty : I knew it pursued 
Ginevra. Knowing this, the idea pressed upon me 



LA TERRASSE. 37 



that it was in some sort my duty to speak the name 
he meditated. Of course he was ready for the sub- 
ject: I saw in his countenance a teeming plenitude 
of comment, question and interest; a pressure of 
language and sentiment, only checked, I thought, by 
sense of embarrassment how to begin. To spare 
him this embarrassment was my best, indeed my sole 
use. I had but to utter the idol's name, and love's 
tender litany would flow out. I had just found a 
fitting phrase: " You know that Miss Fanshawe is 
gone on a tour with the Cholmondeleys," and was 
opening my lips to speak it, when he scattered my 
plans by introducing another theme. 

" The first thing this morning," said he, putting 
his sentiment in his pocket, turning from the moon, 
and sitting down, " I went to the Rue Fossette, and 
told the cuisiniere that you were safe and in good 
hands. Do you know I actually found that she had 
not yet discovered your absence from the house : 
she thought you safe in the great dormitory. With 
what care must you have been waited on !" 

" Oh ! all that is very conceivable," said I. 
" Goton could do nothing for me but bring me a 
little tisane and a crust of bread, and I had rejected 
both so often during the past week, that the good 



38 VILLETTE. 

woman got tired of useless journeys from the 
dwelling-house kitchen to the school-dormitory, and 
only came once a day at noon, to make my bed. 
Believe, however, that she is a good natured creature, 
and would bave been delighted to cook me cotelettes 
de mouton,if I could have eaten them." 

" What did Madam Beck mean by leaving you 
alone ? " 

" Madam Beck could not foresee that I should 
fall ill." 

u Your nervous system bore a good share of the 
suffering ? " 

" I am not quite sure what my nervous system is, 
but I was dreadfully low-spirited." 

" Which disables me from helping you by pill or 
potion. Medicine can give nobody good spirits. 
My art halts at threshold of Hypochondria : she 
just looks in and sees a chamber of torture, but can 
neither say nor do much. Cheerful society would 
be of use ; you should be as little alone as possible ; 
you should take plenty of exercise." 

Acquiescence and a pause followed these re- 
marks. They sounded all right, I thought, and 
bore the safe sanction of custom, and the well worn 
stamp of use. 



LA TERIIASSE. 39 

i( Miss Snowe," recommenced Dr. John — my 
health, nervous system included, being now some- 
what to my relief, discussed and done with — " is it 
permitted me to ask what r your religion now is? 
Are you a Catholic ? " 

I looked up in some surprise — " A Catholic? No ! 
Why suggest such an idea ? " 

" The manner in which you were consigned to me 
last night, made me doubt." 

" I consigned to you? But, indeed, I forget, It 
remains yet for me to learn how I fell into your 
hands." 

" Why, under circumstances that puzzled me. I 
had been in attendance all day yesterday on a case 
of singularly interesting, and critical character ; the 
disease being rare, and its treatment doubtful: I 
saw a similar and still finer case in a hospital at 
Paris ; but that will not interest you. At last a 
mitigation of the patient's most urgent symptoms 
(acute pain is one of its accompaniments) liberated 
me, and I set out homeward. My shortest way la}* 
through the BasseVille, and as the night was exces- 
sively dark, wild and wet, I took it. In riding past 
an old church belonging to a community of 
Beguines, I saw by a lamp burning over the porch 



40 VILLETTE. 

or deep arch of the entrance, a priest lifting some 
object in his arms. The lamp was bright enough to 
reveal the priest's features clearly, and I recognized 
him ; he was a man I have often met by the sick 
beds of both rich and poor : and, chiefly, the latter. 
He is, I think, a good old man, far better than most 
of his class in this country ; superior, indeed, in 
every way: better informed, as well as more devoted 
to duty. Our eyes met, he called on me to stop ; 
what he supported was a woman, fainting or dying. 
I alighted. 

"'This person is one of your countrywomen,' he 
said : ' save her, if she is not dead.' 

"My countrywoman, on examination, turned out to 
be the English teacher at Madam Beck's pension- 
nat. She was perfectly unconscious, perfectly blood- 
less, and nearly cold. 

" ' What does it all mean?' was my inquiry. 

" He communicated a curious account : that vou 
had been to him that evening at confessional ; that 
your exhausted and suffering appearance, coupled 
with some things you had said — " 

"Things I had said ? I wonder what things !' : 

"Awful crimes, no doubt; but he did not tell me 
what: there, you know, the seal of the confessional 



LA TERRASSE. 41 

checked his garrulity and my curiosity. Your con- 
fidences, however, had not made an enemy of the 
good father ; it seems he was so struck, and felt so 
sorry that you should be out on such a night alone, 
lie had esteemed it a christian duty to watch when 
you quitted the church, and so to manage as not to 
lose sight of you, till you should have reached 
home. Perhaps the worthy]man might, half uncon- 
sciously, have blent in this proceeding, some little of 
the subtility of his class : it might have been his 
resolve to learn the locality of your home — did you 
impart that in your confession ?" 

" I did not : on the contrary, I carefully avoided 
the shadow of any indication ; and as to my con- 
fession, Dr. John, I suppose you will think me mad 
for taking such a step, but I could not help it : 
I suppose it was all the fault of what you call my 
c nervous system.' I cannot put the case into 
words, but, my days and nights were grown intoler- 
able ; a cruel sense of desolation pained my 
mind : a feeling that would make its way, rush 
out, or kill me — like (and this you will under- 
stand, Dr. John) the current which passes 
througli the heart, and which, if aneurism or any 
other morbid cause obstructs its natural channels, 



42 VILLETTE. 

seeks abnormal outlet. I wanted companionship, 
I wanted friendship, I wanted counsel. I could find 
none of these in closet, or chamber, so I went and 
sought them in church and confessional. As to what 
I said, it was no confidence, no narrative. I have 
done nothing wrong- : my life has not been active 
enough for any dark deed, either of romance or 
reality : all I poured out was a dreary, desperate 
complaint." 

" Lucy, you ought to travel for about six months : 
why, your calm nature is growing quite excitable ! 
Confound Madame Beck! Has the little buxom 
widow no bowels, to condemn her best teacher to 
solitarv confinement?" 

" It was not Madame Beck's fault," said I ; "it 
is no living being's fault, and I won't hear any one 
blamed." 

"Who is in the wrong then, Lucy?" 

"Me — Dr. John — me ; and a great abstraction on 
whose wide shoulders I like to lay the mountains of 
blame they were sculptured to bear : me and Fate." 

" ' Me' must take better care in future," said Dr. 
John — smiling, I suppose, at my bad grammar. 

" Change of air — change of scene ; those are my 
prescriptions," pursued the practical young doctor. 



LA TEURASSE. 



43 



" But to return to our muttons, Lucy. As yet, Pere 
Silas, with all his tact (they say he is a Jesuit), is 
no wiser than you choose him to be ; for, instead of 
returning to the Rue Fossette, your fevered wan- 
derings — there must have been high fever " 

" No, Dr. John : the fever took its turn that 
night — now, don't make out that I was delirious, 
for I know r differently." 

" Good ! you were as collected as myself at this 
moment, no doubt ! Your wanderings had taken 
an opposite direction to the Pensionnat. Near the 
Beguinage, amidst the stress of flood and gust, and 
in the perplexity of darkness, you had swooned and 
fallen. The priest came to your succour, and the 
physician, as we have seen, supervened. Between 
us we procured a fiacre and brought you here. 
Pere Silas, old as he is, would carry you up stairs, 
and lay you on that couch himself. He would 
certainly have remained with you till suspended 
animation had been restored ; and so should I, but, 
at that juncture, a hurried messenger arrived from 
the dying patient I had scarcely left — the last duties 
were called for — the physician's last visit and the 
priest's last rite ; extreme unction could not be 
deferred. Pere Silas and myself departed together, 



44 VILLETTE. 

my mother was spending the evening abroad ; we 
gave you in charge to Martha, leaving directions, 
which it seems she followed successfully. Now, are 
you a Catholic ?" 

" ISTot yet," said I, with a smile. "And never let 
Pere Silas know where I live, or he will try to con- 
vert me; but give him my best and truest thanks 
when you see him, and if ever I get rich I will send 
him money for his charities. See, Dr. John, your 
mother wakes ; you ought to ring for tea.'* 

Which he did ; and, as Mrs. Bretton sat up — 
astonished and indignant at herself for the indul- 
gence to which she had succumbed, and fully pre- 
pared to deny that she had slept at all — her son 
came gaily to the attack : 

"Hushaby, mama! Sleep again. You look 
the picture of innocence in your slumbers." 

" My slumbers, John Graham ! What are you 
talking about ? You know I never do sleep by day: 
it was the slightest doze possible." 

" Exactly ! a seraph's gentle lapse — a fairy's 
dream. Mama, under such circumstances, you 
always remind me of'Titania." 

" That is because you, yourself, are so like Bot- 
tom." 



LA TERRASSE. 45 

" Miss Snowe — did you ever hear anything like 
mania's wit ? She is a most sprightly woman of 
her size and age." 

" Keep your compliments to yourself, sir, and do 
not neglect your own size : which seems to me a 
good deal on the increase. Lucy, has he not rather 
the air of an incipient John Bull ? He used to be 
slender as an eel, and now I fancy in him a sort 
of heavy-dragoon bent — a beef-eater tendency. 
Graham, take notice ! If you grow fat I disown 

you." 

" As if you could not sooner disown your own 
personality ! I am indispensable to the old lady's 
happiness, Lucy. She would pine away in green 
and yellow melancholy if she had not my six feet 
of iniquity to scold. It keeps her lively — it main- 
tains the wholesome ferment of her spirits." 

The two were now standing opposite to each 
other, one on each side the fire-place ; their words 
were not very fond, but their mutual looks atoned 
for verbal deficiencies. At least, the best treasure 
of Mrs. Bretton's life was certainly casketed in her 
son's bosom ; her dearest pulse throbbed in his 
heart. As to him, of course another love shared his 
feelings with filial love; and* no doubt, as the new 



46 VILLETTE. 

passion was the latest born, so he assigned it in his 
emotions Benjamin's portion. Ginevra ! Ginevra! 
Did Mrs. Bretton yet know at whose feet her own 
young idol had laid his homage ? Would she 
ap|3rove that choice ? I could not tell ; but I could 
well guess that if she knew Miss Fanshawe's con- 
duct towards Graham: her alternations between 
coldness and coaxing, and repulse and allurement; 
if she could at all suspect the pain with which she 
had tried him ; if she could have seen, as I had seen, 
his fine spirits subdued and harassed, his inferior 
preferred before him, his subordinate made the 
instrument of his humiliation — then Mrs. Bretton 
would have pronounced Ginevra imbecile, or per- 
verted, or both. Well — I thought so too. 

That second evening passed as sweetly as the 
first — mora sweetly indeed : we enjoyed a smoother 
interchange of thought; old troubles were not re- 
verted to, acquaintance was better cemented ; I felt 
happier, easier, more at home. That night— instead 
of crying myself asleep — I went down to dreamland 
by a pathway bordered with pleasant thoughts. 



WE QUARREL. 47 



CHAPTER XIX. 



WE QUARREL. 



During the first days of my stay at the Terrace, 
Graham never took a seat near me, or in his fre- 
quent pacing of the room approached the quarter 
where I sat, or looked preoccupied, or more grave 
than usual, but I thought of Miss Fanshawe and 
expected her name to leap from his lips. I kept 
my ear and mind in perpetual readiness for the 
tender theme ; my patience was ordered to be per- 
manently under arms, and my sympathy desired to 
keep its cornucopia replenished and ready for out- 
pouring. At last, and after a little inward struggle 
which I saw and respected, he one day launched 
into the topic. It was introduced delicately ; 
anonymously as it were. 

" Your friend is spending her vacation in travel- 



48 VILLETTE. 

ling, I hear?" "Friend, forsooth!" thought I to 
myself: but it would not do to contradict ; he must 
have his own way ; I must own the soft impeach- 
ment : friend let it be. Still, by way of experiment, 
I could not help asking whom he meant ? 

He had taken a seat at my work-table ; he now 
laid hands on a reel of thread which lie proceeded 
recklessly to unwind. 

" Ginevra — Miss Fanshawe, has accompanied the 
Cholmondeleys on a tour through the south of 
France ? " 

" She has." 

" Do you and she correspond ? " 

" It will astonish you to hear that I never once 
thought of making application for that privilege." 

" You have seen letters of her writing ?" 

" Yes ; several to her uncle." 

"They will not be deficient in wit and naivete', 
there is so much sparkle, and so little art in her 
soul?" 

" She writes comprehensibly enough when she 
writes to M. de Bassompierre : he who runs may 
read." (In fact, Ginevra's epistles to her wealthy 
kinsman were commonly business documents, un- 
equivocal applications for cash.) 



WE QUARREL. 49 

" And her handwriting ? It must be pretty, light, 
ladylike, I should think V 

It was, and I said so. 

ls I verily believe that all she does is well done," 
said Dr. John; and as I seemed in no hurry to 
chime in with this remark, he added : " You, who 
know her, could you name a point in which she is 
deficient?" 

" She does several things very well." (" Flirtation 
amongst the rest/' subjoined I, in thought.) 

" When do you suppose she will return to town ? " 
he soon inquired. 

" Pardon me, Dr. John, I must explain. You 
honour me too much in ascribing; to me a degree 
of intimacy with Miss Fanshawe I have not the 
felicity to enjo}*. I have never been the depositary 
of her plans and secrets. Y r ou will find her par- 
ticular friends in another sphere than mine : amongst 
the Cholmondeleys, for instance." 

He actually thought I was stung with a kind of 
jealous pain similar to his own ! " Excuse her ; " 
he said, "judge her indulgently; the glitter of 
fashion misleads her, but she will soon find out that 
these people are hollow, and will return to you with 
augmented attachment and confirmed trust. I 

VOL. II. e 



50 VILLETTE. 

know something of the Cholmondeleys ; superficial, 
showy, selfish people : depend on it, at heart 
Ginevra values you beyond a score of such." 

" You are very kind." I said briefty. A dis- 
claimer of the sentiments attributed to me burned 
on my lips, but I extinguished the flame. I sub- 
mitted to be looked upon as the humiliated, cast-off, 
and now pining confidante of the distinguished Miss 
Fanshawe : but, reader, it was a hard submission. 

" Yet, you see," continued Graham, " while I 
comfort you, I cannot take the same consolation to 
myself; I cannot hope she will do me justice. De 
Hamal is most worthless, yet I fear he pleases her : 
wretched delusion ! " 

My patience really gave way, and without notice : 
all at once. I suppose illness and weakness had 
worn it and made it brittle. 

"Dr. Bretton," I broke out, " there is no delusion 
like your own. On all points but one you are 
a man, frank, healthful, right-thinking, clear- 
sighted : on this exceptional point you are but 
a slave. I declare, where Miss Fanshawe is con- 
cerned, you merit no respect; nor have you mine." 

I got up, and left the room very much excited. 

This little scene took place in the morning ; 



WE QUARREL. 51 

I had to meet him again in the evening, and then 
I saw I had done mischief. He was not made of 
common clay, not put together out of vulgar 
materials ; while the outlines of his nature had been 
shaped with breadth and vigour, the details em- 
braced workmanship of almost feminine delicacy : 
finer, much finer, than you could be prepared to 
meet with ; than you could believe inherent in him, 
even after years of acquaintance. Indeed, till some 
over-sharp contact with his nerves had betrayed, by 
its effects, their acute sensibility, this elaborate con- 
struction must be ignored ; and the more especially 
because the sympathetic faculty was not prominent 
in him : to feel, and to seize quickly another's feelings, 
are separate properties ; a few constructions possess 
both, some neither. Dr. John had the one gift in 
exquisite perfection ; and because I have admitted 
that he was not endowed with the other in equal 
degree, the reader will considerately refrain from 
passing to an extreme, and pronouncing him ur- 
sympathizing, unfeeling : on the contrary, he was 
a kind, generous man. Make your need known, 
his hand was open. Put your grief into words, he 
turned no deaf ear. Expect refinements of per- 
ception, miracles of intuition, and realize disappoint- 



52 VILLETTE. 



ment. This night, when Dr. John entered the 
room, and met the evening lamp, I saw well and at 
one jjlance his whole mechanism. 

To one who had named him " slave," and, on any 

WW if 

point, banned him from respect, he must now have 
peculiar feelings. That the epithet was well applied, 
and the ban just, might be; he put forth no denial 
that it was so : his mind even candidly revolved 
that unmanning possibility. He sought in this accu- 
sation the cause of that ill-success which had got so 
galling a hold on his mental peace. Amid the 
worry of a self-condemnatory soliloquy, his de- 
meanour seemed grave, perhaps cold, both to me 
and his mother. And yet there was no bad feeling, 
no malice, no rancour, no littleness in his counte- 
nance, beautiful with a man's best beauty, even in 
its depression. When I placed his chair at the 
table, which I hastened to do, anticipating the 
servant, and when I handed him his tea, which 
I did with trembling care, he said — 

" Thank you, Lucy," in as kindly a tone of his 
full pleasant voice as ever my ear welcomed. 

For my part, there was only one plan to be 
pursued ; I must expiate my culpable vehemence, or 
I must not sleep that night. This would not do at 



WE QUARREL. 53 

all; I could not stand it: I made no pretence of 
capacity to wage war on this footing. School 
solitude, conventual silence and stagnation, any- 
thing seemed preferable to living embroiled with 
Dr. John. As to Ginevra, she might take the silver 
wings of a dove, or any other fowl that flies, and 
mount straight up to the highest place, among the 
highest stars, where her lover's highest flight of 
fancy chose to fix the constellation of her charms : 
never more be it mine to dispute the arrangement. 
Long I tried to catch his eye. Again and again 
that eye just met mine ; but, having nothing to say, 
it withdrew, and I was baffled. After tea, he sat 
sad and quiet, reading a book. I wished I could 
have dared to go and sit near him, but it seemed 
that if I ventured to take that step, he would 
infallibly evince hostility and indignation. I longed 
to speak out, and I dared not whisper. His mother 
left the room; then, moved by insupportable regret, 
I just murmured the words " Dr. Bretton." 

He looked up from his book; his eyes were not 
cold or malevolent, his mouth w r as not cynical ; he 
was ready and willing to hear what I might have to 
say : his spirit was of vintage too mellow and 
generous to sour in one thunder-clap. 



54 VILLETTE. 

" Dr. Bretton, forgive my hasty words : do, do 
forgive them." 

He smiled that moment I spoke. " Perhaps I 
deserved them, Lucy. If you don't respect me, I 
am sure it is because" I am not respectable. I fear, 
I am an awkward fool : I must manage badly in 
some way, for where I wish to please, it seems I 
don't please." 

" Of that you cannot be sure ; and even if such 
be the case, is it the fault of vour character, or of 
another's perceptions? But now, let me unsay 
what I said, in anger. In one thing, and in all 
things, I deeply respect you. If you think scarcely 
enough of yourself, and too much of others, what 
is that but an excellence ?" 

" Can I think too much of Ginevra ? " 

" I believe you may; you believe you can't. Let 
us agree to differ. Let me be pardoned ; that is 
what I ask." 

" Do you think I cherish ill-will for one warm 
■word 1 " 

"I see you do not and cannot; but just say, 
' Lucy, I forgive you ! ' Say that, to ease me of the 
heart-ache." 

" Put away your heart-ache, as I will put away 



WE QUARREL. 55 

mine : for you wounded me a little, Lucy. Now, 
when the pain is gone, I more than forgive: I feel 
grateful, as to a sincere well-wisher." 

" I am your sincere well-wisher : you are right." 

Thus our quarrel ended. 

Reader, if in the course of this work, vou find 
that my opinion of Dr. John, undergoes modifica- 
tion, excuse the seeming inconsistency. I give the 
feeling as at the time I felt it ; I describe the view 
of character as it appeared when discovered. 

He show r ed the fineness of his nature by being 
kinder to me after that misunderstanding than 
before. IN^ay, the very incident which, by my 
theory, must in some degree estrange me and him, 
changed, indeed, somewhat our relations ; but not in 
the sense I painfully anticipated. An invisible, 
but a cold something, very slight, very transparent, 
but very chill : a sort of screen of ice had hither- 
to, all through our two lives, glazed the medium 
through which we exchanged intercourse. Those few 
warm words, though only warm with anger, breathed 
on that frail frost-work of reserve ; about this time, 
it gave note of dissolution. I think from that da}, 
so long as we continued friends, he never in dis- 
course stood on topics of ceremony with me. He 



56 VILLETTE. 

seemed to know that if he would but talk about 
himself, and about that in which he was most 
interested, my expectation would always be an- 
swered, my wish always satisfied. It follows, as a 
matter of course, that I continued to hear much of 
rt Ginevra." 

"Ginevra!" He thought her so fair, so good; 
he spoke so lovingly of her charms, her sweetness, 
her innocence, that, in spite of my plain prose 
knowledge of the reality, a kind of reflected glow 
began to settle on her idea, even for me. Still, 
reader, I am free to confess, that he often talked 
nonsense ; but I strove to be unfailingly patient 
with him. I had had my lesson : I had learned how 
severe for me was the pain of crossing, or grieving, 
or disappointing him. In a strange and new sense? 
I grew most selfish, and quite powerless to deny my. 
self the delight of indulging his mood, and being- 
pliant to his will. He still seemed to me most 
absurd when he obstinately doubted, and desponded 
about his power to win in the end Miss Fanshawe's 
preference. The fancy became rooted in my own mind 
more stubbornly than ever, that she was only 
coquetting to goad him, and that, at heart, she 
coveted every one of his words and looks. Some- 



WE QUARREL. Ji 

times he harassed me, in spite of my resolution to 
bear and hear ; in the midst of the indescribable 
gall-honey pleasure of thus bearing and hearing, 
he struck so on the flint of what firmness I owned, 
that it emitted fire once and again. I chanced to 
assert one day, with a view to stilling his impa- 
tience, that in my own mind, I felt positive Miss 
Fanshawe must intend eventually to accept him. 

" Positive ! It was easy to say so, but had I any 
grounds for such assurance?" 

" The best grounds." 

"Now, Lucy, do tell me what !" 

" You know them as well as I ; and, knowing 
them Dr. John, it really amazes me that you should 
not repose the frankest confidence in her fidelity. 
To doubt, under the circumstances, is almost to 
insult." 

" Now you are beginning to speak fast and to 
breathe short ; but speak a little faster and breathe 
a little shorter, till you have given an explanation 
— a full explanation : I must have it." 

" You shall, Dr. John. In some cases, yoif are a 
lavish, generous man : you are a worshipper ever 
ready with the votive offering ; should Pere Silas 
ever convert you, you will give him abundance of alms 



58 VILLETTE. 

for his poor, you will supply his altar with tapers, 
and the shrine of your favourite saint you will do 
your best to enrich : Ginevra, Dr. John " 

" Hush !" said he, " don't go on." 

" Hush, I will riot: and go on I will: Ginevra has 
had her hands filled from your hands more times 
than I can count. You have sought for her the 
costliest flowers ; you have busied your brain in 
devising gifts, the most delicate : such, one would 
have thought, as only a woman could have imagined ; 
and in addition, Miss Fanshawe owns a set of 
ornaments, to purchase which your generosity must 
have verged on extravagance." 

The modesty Ginevra herself had never evinced 
in this matter, now flushed all over the face of her 
admirer. 

"Nonsense!" he said, destructively snipping a 
skein of silk with my scissors. " I offered them to 
please myself: I felt she did me a favour in accept- 
ing them." 

" She did more than a favour, Dr. Johu : she 
pledged her very honour that she would make you 
some return; and if she cannot pay you in affection, 
she ought to hand out a business-like equivalent, in 
the shape of some rouleaux of gold pieces." 



WE QUARREL. 59 

" But you don't understand her ; she is far too 
disinterested to care for my gifts, and too simple- 
minded to know their value." 

I laughed out: I had heard her adjudge to every 
jewel its price ; and well I knew money-embarrass- 
ment, money-schemes, money's worth, and en- 
deavours to realize supplies, had, young as she was, 
furnished the most frequent, and the favourite 
stimulus of her thoughts for years. 

He pursued. " You should have seen her when- 
ever I have laid on her lap some trifle; so cool, so 
unmoved : no eagerness to take, not even pleasure 
in contemplating. Just from amiable reluctance 
to grieve me, she would permit the bouquet to lie 
beside her, and perhaps consent to bear it away. 
Or, if I achieved the fastening of a bracelet on her 
ivory arm, however pretty the trinket might be 
(and I always carefully chose what seemed to me 
pretty, and what of course was not valueless), the 
glitter never dazzled her bright eyes : she would 
hardly cast one look on my gift." 

" Then, of course, not valuing it, she would un- 
loose, and return it to you ? " 

" No ; for such a repulse she was too good- 
natured. She would consent to seem to forget what 



60 VILLETTE. 

I had done, and retain the offering- with lady-like 
quiet and easy oblivion. Under such circumstances, 
how can a man build on acceptance of his presents 
as a favourable symptom ? For my part, were I to 
offer her all I have, and she to take it, such is her 
incapacity to be swayed by sordid considerations, 
I should not venture to believe the transaction 
advanced me one step." 

" Dr John," I began, "Love is blind;" but just 
then a blue, subtle ray sped sideways from Dr. 
John's eye : it reminded me of old days, it reminded 
me of his picture : it half led me to think that part, 
at least, of his professed persuasion of Miss Fan- 
shawe's na'iuete was assumed ; it led me dubiously 
to conjecture that perhaps, in spite of his passion 
for her beauty, his appreciation of her foibles might 
possibly be less mistaken, more clear-sighted, than 
from his general language was presumable. After 
all it might be only a chance look, or at best, the 
token of a merely momentary impression. Chance 
or intentional, real or imaginary, it closed the con- 
versation. 



THE CLEOPATKA. 



61 



CHAPTER XX. 



THE CLEOPATRA. 



My stay at La Terrasse was prolonged a fortnight 
beyond the close of the vacation. Mrs. Bretton's 
kind management procured me this respite. Her 
son having one day delivered the dictum that "Lucy 
was not yet strong enough to go back to that den of 
a Pensionnat," she at once drove over to the Rue 
Fossette, had an interview with the directress, and 
procured the indulgence, on the plea of prolonged 
rest and change being necessary to perfect recovery. 
Hereupon, however, followed an attention 1 could 
very well have dispensed with, viz. — a polite call 
from Madame Beck. 

That lady — one fine day — actually came out in a 
fiacre as far as the chateau. I suppose she had 
resolved within herself to see what manner of place 
Dr. John inhabited. Apparently, the pleasant site 



62 VILLETTE. 

and neat interior surpassed her expectations ; she 
eulogized all she saw, pronounced the blue salon 
" une piece magnifique," profusely congratulated 
me on the acquisition of friends, " tellement dignes, 
aimables, et respectables/' turned also a neat com- 
pliment in my favour, and, upon Dr. John coming 
in, ran up to him with the utmost buoyancy, open- 
ing at the same time such a fire of rapid language, 
all sparkling with felicitations and protestations 
about his " chateau," — " madame sa mere, la digne 
chatelaine :" also his looks ; which indeed were very 
flourishing, and at the moment additionally embel- 
lished by the good-natured but amused smile with 
which he always listened to madame's fluent and 
florid French. In short, Madame shone in her 
very best phase that day, and came in and went 
out quite a living catherine-wheel of compliments, 
delight, and affability. Half-purposely, and half to 
ask some question about school-business, I followed 
her to the carriage, and looked in after she was 
seated and the door closed. In that brief fraction of 
time what a change had been wrought! An instant 
ago, all sparkles and jests, she now sat sterner than 
a judge and graver than a sage. Strange little 
woman ! 



THE CLEOPATRA. 63 

I went back and teased Dr. John about Madame' s 
devotion to him. How he laughed ! What fun 
shone in his eyes as he recalled some of her fine 
speeches, and repeated them, imitating her voluble 
delivery ! He had an acute sense of humour, and 
was the finest company in the world — when he could 
forget Miss Fanshawe. 



To "sit in sunshine calm and sweet" is said to be 
excellent for weak people ; it gives them vital force. 
When little Georgette Beck was recovering from 
her illness, I used to take her in my arms and walk 
with her in the garden by the hour together, be- 
neath a certain wall hung with grapes, which the 
Southern sun was ripening : that sun cherished her 
little pale frame quite as effectually as it mellowed 
and swelled the clustering fruit. 

There are human tempers, bland, glowing, and 
genial, within whose influence it is as good for the 
poor in spirit to live, as it is for the feeble in frame 
to bask in the glow of noon. Of the number of 
these choice natures were certainly both Dr. Bret- 
ton's and his mother's. They liked to communicate 
happiness, as some like to occasion misery : they did 



64 VJLLETTE. 

it instinctively ; without fuss, and apparently, with 
little consciousness : the means to give pleasure rose 
spontaneously in their minds. Every day while I 
stayed with them, some little plan was proposed 
which resulted in beneficial enjoyment. Fully oc- 
cupied as was Dr. John's time, he still made it in 
his way to accompany us in each brief excursion. I 
can hardly tell how he managed his engagements ; 
they were numerous, yet by dint of system, he 
classed them in an order which left him a daily 
period of liberty. I often saw him hard- worked, 
yet seldom over-driven ; and never irritated, con- 
fused, or oppressed. What he did was accomplished 
with the ease and grace of all-sufficing strength ; 
with the bountiful cheerfulness of high and un- 
broken energies. Under his guidance I saw, in that 
one happy fortnight, more of Villette, its environs, 
and its inhabitants, than I had seen in the whole 
eight months of my previous residence. He took 
me to places of interest in the town, of whose names 
I had not before so much as heard ; with willingness 
and spirit he communicated much note-worthy in- 
formation. He never seemed to think it a trouble 
to talk to me, and, I am sure, it was never a task to 
me to listen. It was not his way to treat subjects 



THE CLEOPATRA. 65 

coldly and vaguely ; he rarely generalized, never 
prosed. He seemed to like nice details almost as 
much as I liked them myself; he seemed observant 
of character : and not superficially observant, either. 
These points gave the quality of interest to his dis- 
course ; and the fact of his speaking direct from his 
own resources, and not borrowing or stealing from 
books — here a dry fact, and there a trite phrase, and 
elsewhere a hackneyed opinion — ensured a fresh- 
ness, as welcome as it was rare. Before my eyes, 
too, his disposition seemed to unfold another phase ; 
to pass to a fresh day : to rise in new and nobler 
dawn. 

His mother possessed a good development of 
benevolence, but he owned a better and larger. I 
found, on accompanying him to the Basse- Ville — 
the poor and crowded quarter of the city — that his 
errands there were as much those of the philan- 
thropist as the physician. I understood presently 
that — cheerfully, habitually, and in single-minded 
unconsciousness of any special merit distinguishing 
his deeds — he was achieving, amongst a very 
wretched population, a world of active good. The 
lower orders liked him well ; his poor patients in the 
hospitals welcomed him with a sort of enthusiasm. 

VOL. II. p 



66 VILLETTE. 

But stop — I must not, from the faithful narrator, 
degenerate into the partial eulogist. Well, full 
well, do I know that Dr. John was not perfect, any- 
more than I am perfect. Human fallibility leavened 
him throughout : there was no hour, and scarcely 
a moment of the times I spent with him, that in 
act, or speech, or look, he did not betray something 
that was not of a god. A god could not have the 
cruel vanity of Dr. John, nor his sometime levity. 
No immortal could have resembled him in his 
occasional temporary oblivion of all but the present 
— in his passing passion for that present ; shown 
not coarsely, by devoting it to material indulgence, 
but selfishly, by extracting from it whatever it could 
yield of nutriment to his masculine self-love : his 
delight was to feed that ravenous sentiment, without 
thought of the price of provender, or care for the 
cost of keeping it sleek and high-pampered. 

The reader is requested to note a seeming con- 
tradiction in the two views which have been given 
of Graham Bretton — the public and private — the 
out-door and the in-door view. In the first, the 
public, he is shown oblivious of self; as modest in 
the display of his energies, as earnest in their exer- 
cise. In the second, the fireside picture, there is 



THE CLEOPATRA. 67 

expressed consciousness of what he has and what 
he is ; pleasure in homage, some recklessness in 
exciting, some vanity in receiving the same. Both 
portraits are correct. 

It was hardly possible to oblige Dr. John quietly 
and in secret. When you thought that the fabri- 
cation of some trifle dedicated to his use had been 
achieved unnoticed, and that, like other men, he 
would use it when placed ready for his use, and 
never ask whence it came, he amazed you by a 
smilingly-uttered observation or two proving that 
his eye had been on the work from commencement 
to close : that he had noted the design, traced its 
progress, and marked its completion. It pleased 
him to be thus served, and he let his pleasure beam 
in his eye and play about his mouth. 

This would have been all very well, if he had not 
added to such kindly and unobtrusive evidence a 
certain wilfulness in discharging what he called 
debts. When his mother worked for him, he paid 
her by showering about her his bright animal spirits, 
with even more affluence than his gay, taunting, 
teasing, loving wont. If Lucy Snowe were dis- 
covered to have put her hand to such work, he 
planned, in recompense, some pleasant recreation. 



68 VILLETTE. 

I often felt amazed at his perfect knowledge of 
Villette ; a knowledge not merely confined to its 
open streets, but penetrating to all its galleries, 
salles, and cabinets : of every door which shut in an 
object worth seeing, of every museum, of every hall, 
sacred to art or science, he seemed to possess the 
" Open ! Sesame." I never had a head for science, 
but an ignorant, blind, fond instinct inclined me to 
art. I liked to visit the picture-galleries, and I 
dearly liked to be left there alone. In company, 
a wretched idiosyncracy forbade me to see much or 
to feel anything. In unfamiliar company, where it 
was necessary to maintain a flow of talk on the 
subjects in presence, half an hour would knock me 
up, with a combined pressure of physical lassitude 
and entire mental incapacity. I never yet saw the 
well-reared child, much less the educated adult, 
who could not put me to shame, by the sustained 
intelligence of its demeanour under the ordeal of a 
conversable sociable visitation of pictures, historical 
sites or buildings, or any lions of public interest. 
Dr. Bretton was a cicerone after my own heart ; he 
would take me betimes, ere the galleries were filled, 
leave me there for two or three hours, and call for 
me when his own engagements were discharged. 



THE CLEOPATRA. 69 

Meantime, I was happy ; happy, not always in 
admiring, but in examining, questioning, and form- 
ing conclusions. In the commencement of these 
visits, there was some misunderstanding and conse- 
quent struggle between Will and Power. The 
former faculty exacted approbation of that which it 
was considered orthodox to admire ; the latter 
groaned forth its utter inability to pay the tax ; it 
was then self-sneered at, spurred up, goaded on to 
refine its taste, and whet its zest. The more it was 
chidden, however, the more it wouldn't praise. Dis- 
covering gradually that a w r onderful sense of fatigue 
resulted from these conscientious efforts, I began to 
reflect whether I might not dispense with that great 
labour, and concluded eventually that I might, and 
so sank sujiine into a luxury of calm before ninety- 
nine out of a hundred of the exhibited frames. 

It seemed to me that an original and good pic- 
ture was just as scarce as an original and good 
book ; nor did I, in the end, tremble to say to 
myself, standing before certain chef cY ceuvres bearing 
great names, " These are not a whit like nature. 
Nature's daylight never had that colour ; never was 
made so turbid, either by storm or cloud, as it is 
laid out there, under a sky of indigo : and that 



70 VILLETTE. 

indigo is not ether ; and those dark weeds plastered 
upon it are not trees." Several very well executed 
and complacent-looking fat women struck me as by 
no means the goddesses they appeared to consider 
themselves. Many scores of marvellously-finished 
little Flemish pictures, and also of sketches, excel- 
lent for fashion-books, displaying varied costumes 
in the handsomest materials, gave evidence of 
laudable industry whimsically applied. And yet 
there were fragments of truth here and there which 
satisfied the conscience, and gleams of light that 
cheered the vision. Nature's power here broke 
through in a mountain snow-storm ; and there her 
glory in a sunny southern day. An expression in 
this portrait proved clear insight into character ; 
a face in that historical painting, by its vivid filial 
likeness, startlingly reminded you that genius gave 
it birth. These exceptions I loved : they grew dear 

as friends. 

One day, at a quiet early hour, I found myself 
nearly alone in a certain gallery, wherein one par- 
ticular picture of pretentious size, set up in the best 
light, having a cordon of protection stretched before 
it, and a cushioned bench duly set in front for the 
accommodation of worshipping connoisseurs, who, 



THE CLEOPATRA. 71 

having' gazed themselves off their feet, might be 
fain to complete the business sitting : this picture, 
I say, seemed to consider itself the queen of the 
collection. 

It represented a woman, considerably larger, I 
thought, than the life. I calculated that this lady, 
put into a scale of magnitude suitable for the re- 
ception of a commodity of bulk, would infallibly 
turn from fourteen to sixteen stone. She was, 
indeed, extremely well fed : very much butcher's 
meat — to say nothing of bread, vegetables, and 
liquids — must she have consumed to attain that 
breadth and height, that wealth of muscle, that 
affluence of flesh. She lay half-reclined on a couch : 
why, it would be difficult to say ; broad daylight 
blazed round her; she appeared in hearty health, 
strong enough to do the work of two plain cooks ; 
she could not plead a weak spine ; she ought to 
have been standing, or at least sitting bolt upright. 
She had no business to lounge away the noon on a 
sofa. She ought likewise to have worn decent 
garments ; a gown covering her properly, which 
was not the case: out of abundance of material — 
seven-and-twenty yards, I should say, of drapery — 
she managed to make inefficient raiment. Then, 



72 VILLETTE. 

for the wretched untidiness surrounding her, there 
could be no excuse. Pots and pans — perhaps I 
ought to say vases and goblets — were rolled here and 
there on the foreground; a perfect rubbish of 
flowers was mixed amongst them, and an absurd 
and disorderly mass of curtain upholstery smothered 
the couch and cumbered the floor. On referring 
to the catalogue, I found that this notable pro- 
duction bore name " Cleopatra." 

Well, I was sitting wondering at it (as the bench 
was there, I thought I might as well take advan- 
tage of its accommodation), and thinking that 
while some of the details — as roses, gold cups, jewels, 
&c. — were very prettily painted, it was on the whole 
an enormous piece of claptrap ; the room, almost 
vacant when I entered, began to fill. Scarcely 
noticing this circumstance (as, indeed, it did not 
matter to me) I retained my seat; rather to rest 
myself than with a view to studying this huge, 
dark-complexioned gipsy-queen; of whom, indeed, 
I soon tired, and betook myself for refreshment 
to the contemplation of some exquisite little pictures 
of still life : wild-flowers, wild- fruit, mossy wood- 
nests, casketing eggs that looked like pearls 
seen through clear green sea- water ; all hung 



THE CLEOPATRA. 73 

modestly beneath that coarse and preposterous 
canvass. 

Suddenly a light tap visited my shoulder. Start- 
ing, turning, I met a face bent to encounter mine ; 
a frowning, almost a shocked face it was. 

" Que faites vous ici ? " said a voice. 

" Mais, monsieur, je m' amuse. " 

" Vous vous amusez ! et a quoi, s'il vous plait ? 
Mais d'abord, faites-moi le plaisir de vous lever : 
prenez mon bras, et allons de l'autre cote." 

I did precisely as I was bid. M. Paul Emanuel 
(it was he) returned from Rome, and now a travelled 
man, was not likely to be less tolerant of insub- 
ordination now, than before this added distinction 
laurelled his temples. 

" Permit me to conduct you to your party," 
said he, as we crossed the room. 

" I have no party." 

" You are not alone ? " 

" Yes, monsieur." 

" Did you come here unaccompanied 1 " 

" No, monsieur. Dr. Bretton brought me 
here." 

"Dr. Bretton and Madame his mother, of 
course ? " 



74 VILLETTE. 



t< 



No ; only Dr. Bretton." 

" And he told you to look at that picture 1 " 

" By no means : I found it out for myself." 

M. Paul's hair was shorn close as raven down, 
or I think it would have bristled on his head. 
Beginning now to perceive his drift, I had a certain 
pleasure in keeping cool, and working him up. 

" Astounding insular audacity ! " cried the Pro- 
fessor. " Singulieres femmes que ces Anglaises !" 

" What is the matter, monsieur V 

" Matter ! How dare you, a young person, sit 
coolly down, with the self-possession of a garcon, 
and look at that picture 1 " 

" It is a very ugly picture, but I cannot at all 
see why I should not look at it." 

" Bon ! bon ! Speak no more of it. But you 
ought not to be here alone." 

" If, however, I have no society — no party, as you 
say? And then, what does it signify whether I 
am alone, or accompanied ? nobody meddles with 



me." 



** Taisez-vous, et asseyez-vous la — la ! ,: Setting 
down a chair with emphasis in a particularly dull 
corner, before a series of most specially dreary 
" cadres." 



THE CLEOPATRA. 75 

" Mais, monsieur." 

" Mais, mademoiselle, asseyez vous, et ne bougez 
pas — entendez-vous? jusqu' a ce qu'on vienne vous 
cherclier, ou que je vous donne la permission." 

"Quel triste coin!" cried I, "et quels laids tableaux!" 

And " laids," indeed, they were; being a set of 
four, denominated in the catalogue " La vie d'une 
femme." They were painted rather in a remark- 
able style — flat, dead, pale and formal. The first 
represented a "Jeune Fille," coming out of a 
church-door, a missal in her hand, her dress very 
prim, her eyes cast down, her mouth pursed up — 
the image of a most villanous little precocious 
she-hypocrite. The second, a "Mariee" with a 
long white veil, kneeling at a prie-dieu in her 
chamber, holding her hands plastered together, 
finger to finger, and showing the whites of her 
eyes in a most exasperating manner. The third, 
a " Jeune Mere," hanging disconsolate over a clayey 
and puffy baby with a face like an unwholesome 
full moon. The fourth, a " Veuve," being a 
black woman, holding by the hand a black little 
girl, and the twain studiously surveying an elegant 
French monument, set up in a corner of some Pere 
la Chaise. All these four " Anges " were grim and 



76 VILLETTE. 

gray as burglars, and cold and vapid as ghosts. 
What women to live with ! insincere, ill-humoured, 
bloodless, brainless nonentities ! As bad in their 
way as the indolent gipsy-giantess, the Cleopatra, 
in hers. 

It was impossible to keep one's attention long 
confined to these masterpieces, and so, by degrees, 
I veered round, and surveyed the gallery. 

A perfect crowd of spectators was by this time 
gathered round the Lioness, from whose vicinage 
I had been banished ; nearly half this crowd were 
ladies, but M. Paul afterwards told me, these 
were " cles dames," and it was quite proper for 
them to contemplate what no " demoiselle " ought to 
glance at. I assured him plainly I could not agree 
in this doctrine, and did not see the sense of it ; 
whereupon, with his usual absolutism, he merely 
requested my silence, and also, in the same breath, 
denounced my mingled rashness and ignorance. 
A more despotic little man than M. Paul never 
filled a professor's chair. I noticed, by the way, 
that he looked at the picture himself quite at his 
ease, and for a very long while : he did not, 
however, neglect to glance from time to time my 
way, in order, I suppose, to make sure that I 



THE CLEOPATRA. 77 

was obeying orders, and not breaking bounds. 
By and by, he again accosted me. 

"Had I not been ill?" he wished to know: 
" he understood I had." 

" Yes, but I was now quite well." 

" Where had I spent the vacation?" 

" Chiefly in the Rue Fossette ; partly with 
Madame Bretton." 

" He had heard that I was left alone in the 
Rue Fossette ; was that so?" 

" Not quite alone : Marie Broc " (the cretin) " was 
with me." 

He shrugged his shoulders ; varied and contra- 
dictory expressions played rapidly over his coun- 
tenance. Marie Broc was well known to M. Paul ; 
he never gave a lesson in the third division (contain- 
ing the least advanced pupils), that she did not occa- 
sion in him a sharp conflict between antagonistic im- 
pressions. Her personal appearance, her repulsive 
manners, her often unmanageable disposition, irri- 
tated his temper, and inspired him with strong 
antipathy; a feeling he was too apt to conceive 
when his taste was offended or his will thwarted. 
On the other hand, her misfortunes constituted a 
strong claim on his forbearance and compassion — 



78 VILLETTE. 

sucli a claim as it was not in his nature to deny ; 
hence resulted almost daily drawn battles between 
impatience and disgust on the one hand, pity and a 
sense of justice on the other; in which, to his credit 
be it said, it was very seldom that the former feelings 
prevailed : when they did, however, M. Paul showed 
a phase of character which had its terrors. His 
passions were strong, his aversions and attach- 
ments alike vivid ; the force he exerted in holding 
both in check, by no means mitigated an observer's 
sense of their vehemence. With such tendencies, it 
may well be supposed he often excited in ordinary 
minds fear and dislike ; yet it was an error to fear 
him : nothing drove him so nearly frantic as the 
tremor of an apprehensive and distrustful spirit; 
nothing soothed him like confidence tempered with 
gentleness. To evince these sentiments, however, re- 
quired a thorough comprehension of his nature ; and 
his nature was of an order rarely comprehended. 

" How did you get on with Marie Broc ? " he 
asked, after some minutes' silence. 

" Monsieur, I did my best ; but it was terrible to 
be alone with her ! " 

" You have, then, a weak heart ! You lack cour- 
age; and, perhaps, charity. Yours are not the 



THE CLEOPATRA. 79 

qualities which might constitute a Sister of 
Mercy." 

[He was a religious little man, in his way : the 
self-denying and self-sacrificing part of the Catholic 
religion commanded the homage of his soul.] 

" I don't know, indeed : I took as good care of 
her as I could ; but when her aunt came to fetch her 
away, it was a great relief." 

" Ah ! you are an egotist. There are women who 
have nursed hospitals-full of similar unfortunates. 
You could not do that ? " 

" Could Monsieur do it himself? " 

" Women who are worthy the name ought infi- 
nitely to surpass our coarse, fallible, self-indulgent 
sex, in the power to perform such duties." 

" I washed her, I kept her clean, I fed her, I tried 
to amuse her ; but she made mouths at me instead 
of speaking." 

"You think you did great things ?" 

" No ; but as great as I could do." 

" Then limited are your powers, for in tending one 
idiot, you fell sick." 

" Not with that, monsieur ; I had a nervous fever : 
my mind was ill." 

" Vraiment ! Vous valez peu de chose. You are 



80 VILLETTE. 

not cast in an heroic mould ; your courage will not 
avail to sustain you in solitude ; it merely gives you 
the temerity to gaze with sang-froid at pictures of 
Cleopatra." 

It would have been easy to show anger at the 
teasing, hostile tone of the little man. I had never 
been angry with him yet, however, and had no pre- 
sent disposition to begin. 

"Cleopatra!" I repeated, quietly. " Monsieur, too, 
has been looking at Cleopatra ; what does he think 
of her?" 

" Cela ne vaut rien," he responded. ct line femme 
superbe — une taille d'imperatrice, des formes de 
Junon, mais une personne dont je ne voudrais ni 
pour femme, ni pour fille, ni pour sceur. Aussi vous 
ne jeterez plus un seul coup d' ceil de sa cote." 

" But I have looked at her a great many times 
while Monsieur has been talking : I can see her 
quite well from this corner." 

" Turn to the wall and study your four pictures 
of a woman's life." 

" Excuse me, M. Paul ; they are too hideous : 
but if you admire them, allow me to vacate my 
seat and leave you to their contemplation." 

" Mademoiselle," he said, grimacing a half-smile, 



THE CLEOPATRA. 81 

or what he intended for a smile, though it was but 
a grim and hurried manifestation. " You nurs- 
lings of Protestantism astonish me. You un- 
guarded Englishwomen walk calmly amidst red-hot 
ploughshares and escape burning. I believe, if 
some of you were thrown into Nebuchadnezzar's 
hottest furnace, you would issue forth untraversed 
by the smell of fire." 

" Will Monsieur have the goodness to move an 
inch to one side 1 " 

"How! At what are you gazing now? You 
are not recognizing an acquaintance amongst that 
group of jeunes gens V s 

" I think so Yes, I see there a person I 

know." 

In fact, I had caught a glimpse of a head too 
pretty to belong to any other than the redoubted 
Colonel de Hamal. What a very finished, highly- 
polished little pate it was ! What a figure, so trim 
and natty ! What womanish feet and hands ! 
How daintily he held a glass to one of his 
optics ! with what admiration he gazed upon the 
Cleopatra ! and then, how engagingly he tittered and 
whispered a friend at his elbow ! Oh, the man of 
sense ! Oh, the refined gentleman of superior taste 

VOL. I'. G 



82 VILLETTE. 

and tact ! I observed him for about ten minutes, 
and perceived that he was exceedingly taken with 
this dusk and portly Venus of the Nile. So much 
was I interested in his bearing, so absorbed in 
divining his character by his looks and movements, 
I temporarily forg s ot M. Paul ; in the interim a 
group came between that gentleman and me ; or 
possibly his scruples might have received another 
and worse shock from my present abstrac- 
tion, causing him to withdraw voluntarily : at 
any rate, when I again looked round, he was 
gone. 

My eye, pursuant of the search, met not him, 
but another and dissimilar figure, well seen amidst 
the crowd, for the height as well as the port 
lent each its distinction. This way came Dr. John, 
in visage, in shape, in hue, as unlike the dark, 
acerb, and caustic little professor, as the fruit of the 
Hesperides might be unlike the sloe in the wild 
thicket ; as the high-couraged but tractable Arabian 
is unlike the rude and stubborn " sheltie." He was 
looking for me, but had not yet explored the 
corner where the schoolmaster had just put me. I 
remained quiet ; yet another minute I would watch* 

He approached de Hamal ; he paused near him ; 



THE CLEOPATRA. 83 

I thought he had a pleasure in looking over his 
head ; Dr. Bretton, too, gazed on the Cleopatra. I 
doubt if it were to his taste : he did not simper 
like the little Count; his mouth looked fastidious, 
his eve cool; without demonstration he stepped 
aside, leaving room for others to approach. I saw 
now that he was waiting, and, rising, I joined him. 

We took one turn round the gallery ; with 
Graham it was very pleasant to take such a turn. 
I always liked dearly to hear what he had to say 
about either pictures or books ; because, without 
pretending to be a connoisseur, he always spoke 
his thought, and that was sure to be fresh : very 
often it was also just and pithy. It was pleasant 
also to tell him some things he did not know — he 
listened so kindly, so tcachably ; unformalized by 
scruples lest so to bend his bright handsome head, 
to gather a woman's rather obscure and stammering; 
explanation, should emperil the dignity of his 
manhood. And when he communicated informa- 
tion in return, it was with a lucid intelligence that 
left all his words clear graven on the memory : 
no explanation of his giving, no fact of his narrating, 
did I ever forget. 

As we left the gallery, I asked him what he 



84 VILLETTE. 

thought of the Cleopatra (after making him laugh 
by telling him how Professor Emanuel had sent me 
to the right-about, and taking him to see the sweet 
series of pictures recommended to my attention.) 

"Pooh!" said he, "My mother is a better- 
looking woman. I heard some French fops, 
yonder, designating her as ' le type du voluptueux ;' 
if so, I can only say, *le voluptueux' is little to my 
liking. Compare that mulatto with Ginevra ! " 



THE CONCERT. 85 



CHAPTER XXV. 



THE CONCERT. 



One morning, Mrs. Bretton, coming promptly 
into my room, desired me to open my drawers 
and show her my dresses; which I did, without 
a word. 

" That will do," said she, when she had turned 
them over. "You must have a new one." 

She went out. She returned presently with a 
dress-maker. She had me measured. " I mean," 
said she, "to follow my own taste, and to have 
my own way in this little matter." 

Two days after came home — a pink dress ! 

"That is not for me," I said, hurriedly, feeling 
that I would almost as soon clothe myself in the 
costume of a Chinese lady of rank. 

"We shall see whether it is for you or not," 



86 VILLETTE. 

rejoined my godmother, adding with her resistless 
decision. " Mark my words. You will wear it 
this very evening." 

I thought I should not: I thought no human 
force should avail to put me into it. A pink 
dress ! I knew it not. It knew not me. I had not 
proved it. 

My godmother went on to decree that I was to 
go with her and Graham to a concert that same 
night : which concert, she explained, was a grand 
affair to he held in the large salle, or hall of the 
principal musical society. The most advanced of 
the pupils of the Conservatoire were to perform : 
it was to be followed by a lottery " au benefice des 
pauvres ; " and to crown all, the King, Queen, and 
Prince of Labassecour were to be present. Graham, 
in sending tickets, had enjoined attention to costume 
as a compliment due to royalty : he also recom- 
mended punctual readiness by seven o'clock. 

About six, I was ushered up-stairs. Without any 
force at all, I found myself led and influenced by 
another's will, unconsulted, unpersuaded, quietly 
over-ruled. In short the pink dress went on, 
softened by some drapery of black lace. I was 
pronounced to be en grande tenue, and requested 



THE CONCERT. 87 

to look in the glass. I did so with some fear and 
trembling ; with more fear and trembling, I turned 
away. Seven o'clock struck ; Dr. Bretton was 
come ; my godmother and I went down. She 
was clad in brown velvet ; as I walked in her 
shadow, how I envied her those folds of grave, 
dark majesty ! Graham stood in the drawing- 
room doorway. 

" I do hope he will not think I have been decking 
myself out to draw attention," was my uneasy 
aspiration. 

" Here, Lucy, are some flowers," said he, giving 
me a bouquet. He took no further notice of my 
dress than was conveyed in a kind smile and satis- 
fied nod, which calmed at once my sense of shame 
and fear of ridicule. For the rest, the dress was 
made with extreme simplicity, guiltless of flounce 
or furbelow ; it was but the li^ht fabric and bright 
tint which scared me, and since Graham found in 
it nothing absurd, my own eye consented soon to 
become reconciled. 

I suppose people who go every night to places 
of public amusement, can hardly enter into the 
fresh gala feeling with which an opera or a concert 
is enjoyed by those for whom it is a rarity. I am 



88 VILLETTE. 

not sure that I expected great pleasure from the 
concert, having but a very vague notion of its 
nature, but I liked the drive there well. The snug 
comfort of the close carriage on a cold though fine 
night, the pleasure of setting out with companions 
so cheerful and friendly, the sight of the stars 
glinting fitfully through the trees as we rolled 
along the avenue ; then the freer burst of the 
night-sky when we issued forth to the open chaus- 
see, the passage through the city gates, the lights 
there burning, the guards there posted, the pre- 
tence of inspection to which we there submitted, 
and which amused us so much — all these small 
matters had for me, -in their novelty, a peculiar 
exhilarating charm. How much of it lay in the 
atmosphere of friendship diffused about me, I 
know not : Dr. John and his mother were both in 
their finest mood, contending animatedly with each 
other the whole way, and as frankly kind to me as 
if I had been of their kin. 

Our way lay through some of the best streets of 
Villette, streets brightly lit, and far more lively now 
than at hi<rli noon. How brilliant seemed the 
shops ! How glad, gay, and abundant flowed the 
tide of life along the broad pavement! While I 



THE CONCERT. 



89 



looked, the thought of the Rue Fossette came 
across me — of the walled-in garden and school- 
house, and of the dark, vast " classes," where, as at 
this very hour, it was my wont to wander all 
solitary, gazing at the stars through the high, 
blindless windows, and listening to the distant 
voice of the reader in the refectory, monotonously 
exercised upon the " lecture pieuse." Thus must 
I soon again listen and wander; and this shadow 
of the future stole with timely sobriety across the 
radiant present. 

By this time we had got into a current of car- 
riages all tending in one direction, and soon the 
front of a great illuminated building blazed before 
us. Of what I should see within this building, I 
had, as before intimated, but an imperfect idea ; for 
no place of public entertainment had it ever been 
my lot to enter yet. 

We alighted under a portico where there was a 
great bustle and a great crowd, but I do not dis- 
tinctly remember further details, until I found 
myself mounting a majestic staircase wide and 
easy of ascent, deeply and softly carpeted with 
crimson, leading up to great doors closed solemnly, 
and whose panels were also crimson-clothed. 



90 VILLETTE. 

I hardly noticed by what magic these doors were 
made to roll back — Dr. John managed these points ; 
roll back they did, however, and within was dis- 
closed a hall — grand, wide, and high, whose sweep- 
ing circular walls, and domed hollow ceiling, seemed 
to me all dead gold (thus with nice art was it stain- 
ed), relieved by cornicing, fluting and garlandry, 
either bright," like gold burnished, or snow-white, 
like alabaster, or white and gold mingled in wreaths 
of gilded leaves and spotless lilies : wherever dra- 
pery hung, wherever carpets were spread, or 
cushions placed, the sole colour employed was 
deep crimson. Pendant from the dome, flamed 
a mass that dazzled -me — a mass, I thought, of 
rock - crystal, j sparkling with facets, streaming 
with drops, ablaze with stars, and gorgeously 
tinged with dews of gems dissolved, or fragments 
of rainbows shivered. It was only the chandelier, 
reader, but for me it seemed] the work of eastern 
genii : I almost looked to see if a huge, dark cloudy 
hand — that of the Slave of the Lamp — were not 
hovering in the lustrous and ^perfumed atmosphere 
of the cupola, guarding its wondrous treasure. 

"We moved on — I was not at all conscious whither 
— but at some turn we suddenly encountered ano- 



THE CONCERT. 91 

ther party approaching from the opposite direction. 
I just now see that group, as it flashed uj)on me for 
one moment. A handsome middle-aged lady in 
dark velvet ; a gentleman who might be her son — 
the best face, the finest figure, I thought, I had 
ever seen ; a third person in a pink dress and black 
lace mantle. 

I noted them all — the third person as well as the 
other two — and for the fraction of a moment, be- 
lieved them all strangers, thus receiving an impartial 
impression of their appearance. But the impression 
was hardly felt and not fixed, before the conscious- 
ness that I faced a great mirror, filling a compart- 
ment between two pillars, dispelled it : the party was 
our own party. Thus for the first, and perhaps 
only time in my life, I enjoyed the " giftie" of seeing 
myself as others see me. ~No need to dwell on the 
result. It brought a jar of discord, a pang of 
regret ; it was not flattering, yet, after all, I ought 
to be thankful : it might have been worse. 

At last, we were seated in places commanding a 
good general view of that vast and dazzling, but warm 
and cheerful hall. Already it was filled, and filled 
with a splendid assemblage. I do not know that 
the women were very beautiful, but their dresses 



92 V1LLETTE. 

were so perfect ; and foreigners, even such as are 
ungraceful in domestic privacy, seem to possess 
the art of appearing graceful in public : however 
blunt and boisterous those every-day and home 
movements connected with peignoir and papillotes, 
there is a slide, a bend, a carriage of the head and 
arms, a mien of the mouth and eyes, kept nicely in 
reserve for gala use — always brought out with the 
grande toilette, and duly put on with the 
" parure." 

Some fine forms there were here and there, 
models of a peculiar style of beauty ; a style, I 
think, never seen in England : a solid, firm-set, 
sculptural style. These shapes have no angles : a 
caryatid in marble is almost as flexible ; a Phidian 
goddess is not more perfect in a certain still and 
stately sort. They have such features as the Dutch 
painters give to their madonnas : low-country classic 
features, regular but round, straight but stolid ; and 
for their depth of expressionless calm, of passionless 
peace, a polar snow-field could alone offer a type. 
Women of this order need no ornament, and they 
seldom wear any ; the smooth hair, closely braided, 
supplies a sufficient contrast to the smoother cheek 
and brow ; the dress cannot be too simple ; the 



THE CONCERT. 93 

rounded arm and perfect neck require neither 
bracelet nor chain. 

With one of these beauties I once had the honour 
and rapture to be perfectly acquainted : the inert 
force of the deep, settled love she bore herself, was 
wonderful ; it could only be surpassed by her 
proud impotency to care for any other living thing. 
Of blood, her cool veins conducted no flow ; 
placid lymph filled and almost obstructed her 
arteries. 

Such a Juno as I have described, sat full in our 
view — a sort of mark for all eyes, and quite con- 
scious that so she was, but proof to the magnetic 
influence of gaze or glance : cold, rounded, blonde, 
and beauteous, as the white column, capitalled 
with gilding, which rose at her side. 

Observing that Dr. John's attention was much 
drawn towards her, I entreated him in a low voice 
"for the love of heaven to shield well his heart. 
You need not fall in love with that lady," I said, 
" because, I tell you before-hand, you might die at 
her feet, and she would not love you again.' , 

" Very well," said he, " and how do you know 
that the spectacle of her grand insensibility might 
not with me be the strongest stimulus to homage? 



94 VILLETTE. 

The sting of desperation is, I think, a wonderful 
irritant to my emotions : but (shrugging his 
shoulders) you know nothing about these things ; 
I'll address myself to my mother. Mama, I'm in a 
dangerous way." 

" As if that interested me ! " said Mrs. Bretton. 

" Alas ! the cruelty of my lot ! " responded her 
son. " Never man had a more unsentimental mother 
than mine : she never seems to think that such 
a calamity can befall her as a daughter-in- 
law." 

" If I don't, it is not for want of having that same 
calamity held over my head : you have threatened 
me with it for the last ten years. ( Mama, I am 
going to be married soon ! ' was the cry before you 
were well out of jackets." 

" But, mother, one of these days it will be 
realized. All of a sudden, when you think you are 
most secure, I shall go forth like Jacob or Esau, or 
any other patriarch, and take me a wife : perhaps of 
these which are of the daughters of the land." 

" At your peril, John Graham ! that is all." 

" This mother of mine means me to be an old 
bachelor. What a jealous old lady it is! But now 
just look at that splendid creature in the pale blue 



THE CONCERT. 95 

satin dress, and hair of paler brown, with ' reflets 
satines * as those of her robe. Would you notj feel 
proud, mama, if I were to bring that goddess 
home some day, and introduce her to you as 
Mrs. Bretton, junior?" 

" You will bring no goddess to La Terrasse : that 
little chateau will not contain two mistresses ; es- 
pecially if the second be of the height, bulk, and 
circumference of that mighty doll in wood and 
wax, and kid and satin.' ' 

"Mama, she would fill your blue chair so 
admirably ! " 

" Fill my chair ? I defy the foreign usurper ! a 
rueful chair should it be for her : but hush, John 
Graham ! Hold your tongue, and use your eyes." 

During the above skirmish, the hall which, I had 
thought, seemed full at our entrance, continued to 
admit party after party, until the semicircle before 
the stage presented one dense mass of heads, 
sloping from floor to ceiling. The stage, too, or 
rather the wide temporary platform, larger than any 
stage, desert half an hour since, was now overflow- 
ing with life; round two grand pianos, placed 
about the centre, a white flock of young girls, the 
pupils of the Conservatoire, had noiselessly poured. 



96 VILLETTE. 

I had noticed their gathering, while Graham and 
his mother were engaged in discussing the belle in 
blue satin, and had watched with interest the process 
of arraying and marshalling them. Two gentlemen, 
in each of whom I recognized an acquaintance, 
officered this virgin troop. One, an artistic looking 
man, bearded, and with long hair, was a noted 
pianiste, and also the first music teacher in Villette; 
he attended twice a week at Madame Beck's pen- 
sionat, to give lessons to the few pupils whose 
parents were rich enough to allow their daughters 
the privilege of his instructions ; his name was 
M. Josef Emanuel, and he was half-brother to 
M. Paul : which potent personage was now visible in 
the person of the second gentleman. 

M. Paul amused me ; I smiled to myself as I 
watched him, he seemed so thoroughly in his 
element — standing conspicuous in presence of a 
wide and grand assemblage, arranging, restrain- 
ing, over-aweing about one hundred young ladies. 
He was, too, so perfectly in earnest — so energetic, 
so intent, and, above all, so absolute : and yet what 
business had he there 1 What had he to do with 
music or the Conservatoire — he who could hardly 
distinguish one note from another ? I knew that it 



THE CONCERT. §7 

was his love of display and authority which had 
brought him there — a love not offensive, only because 
so naive. It presently became obvious that his 
brother, M. Josef, was as much under his control 
as were the girls themselves. Never was such a 
little hawk of a man as that M. Paul ! Ere long, 
some noted singers and musicians dawned upon the 
platform : as these stars rose, the comet-like pro- 
fessor set. Insufferable to him were all notorieties 
and celebrities : where he could not outshine, he fled. 

And now all was prepared : but one compartment 
of the hall waited to be filled — a compartment 
covered with crimson, like the grand staircase and 
doors, furnished with stuffed and cushioned benches, 
ranged on each side of two red regal chairs, placed 
solemnly under a canopy. 

A signal was given, the doors rolled back, the 
assembly stood up, the orchestra burst out, and, to 
the welcome of a choral burst, enter the Kin"", 
the Queen, the Court of Labassecour. 

Till then, I had never set eyes on living king or 
queen ; it may consequently be conjectured how I 
strained my powers of vision to take in these spe- 
cimens of European royalty. By whomsoever 
majesty is beheld for the first time, there will always 

VOL. IT. H 



98 VILLETTE. 

be experienced a vague surprise bordering on disap- 
pointment, that the same does not appear seated, en 
permanence, on a throne, bonneted with a crown, 
and furnished, as to the hand, with a sceptre. Look- 
ing out for a king and queen, and seeing only 
a middle-aged soldier and a rather young lady, I 
felt half cheated, half pleased. 

Well do I recall that King — a man of fifty, a 
little bowed, a little gray : there was no face in all 
that assembly which resembled his. I had never 
read, never been told anything of his nature or his 
habits; and at first the strong hieroglyphics 
graven as with iron stylet on his brow, round his 
eyes, beside his mouth, puzzled and baffled instinct. 
Ere long, however, if I did not know, at least I felt, 
the meaning of those characters written without 
hand. There sat a silent sufferer — a nervous, 
melancholy man. Those eyes had looked on the 
visits of a certain ghost — had long waited the 
comings and goings of that strangest spectre, 
Hypochondria. Perhaps he saw her now on that 
stage, over against him, amidst all that brilliant 
throng. Hypochondria has that wont, to rise in the 
midst of thousands — dark as Doom, pale as Malady, 
and well nigh strong as Death. Her comrade 



THE CONCERT. 99 

and victim thinks to be happy one moment — " Not 
so," says she ; " I come." And she freezes the blood 
in his heart, and beclouds the light in his eye. 

Some might say it was the foreign crown pressing 
the King's brows which bent them to that peculiar 
and painful fold ; some might quote the effects of 
early bereavement. Something there might be of 
both these ; but these as embittered by that darkest 
foe of humanity — constitutional melancholy. The 
Queen, his wife, knew this : it seemed to me, the 
reflection of her husband's grief lay, a subduing 
shadow, on her own benignant face. A mild, 
thoughtful, graceful woman that princess seemed ; 
not beautiful, not at all like the women of solid 
charms and marble feelings described a page or two 
since. Hers was a somewhat slender shape; her 
features, though distinguished enough, were toe*/ 
suggestive of reigning dynasties and royal] lines 
to give unqualified pleasure. The expressi on 
clothing that profile was agreeable in the pre sent 
instance ; but you could not avoid connecting it 
with remembered effigies, where similar lines 
appeared, under phase ignoble; feeble, or sensual, 
or cunning, as the case might be. T> ie Queen's 
eye, however, was her own ; and pity, goodness, 



100 VILLETTE. 

sweet sympathy, blessed it with divinest light- 
She moved no sovereign, but a lady — kind, loving, 
elegant. Her little son, the Prince of Labassecour, 
and young Due de Dindonneau, accompanied her : 
he leaned on his mother's knee ; and, ever and anon, 
in the course of that evening, I saw her observant 
of the monarch at her side, conscious of his be- 
clouded abstraction, and desirous to rouse him from 
it by drawing his attention to their son. She often 
bent her head to listen to the boy's remarks, and 
would then smilingly repeat them to his sire. The 
moody King started, listened, smiled, but invariably 
relapsed as soon as his good angel ceased speaking. 
Pull mournful and significant was that spectacle! 
Not the less so because, both for the aristocracy 
and the honest bourgeoisie of Labassecour, its 
peculiarity seemed to be wholly invisible : I could 
i lot discover that one soul present was either struck 
or touched. 

"vxVith the King and Queen had entered their court, 
comprising two or three foreign ambassadors ; and 
with tLiem came the elite of the foreigners then 
resident in Villette. These took possession of the 
crimson L enches ; the ladies were seated ; most 
of the men remained standing : their sable rank, 



THE CONCERT. 



101 



lining the back ground, looked like a dark foil to 
the splendour displayed in front. Nor was this 
splendour without varying light and shade and 
gradation : the middle distance was filled with 
matrons in velvets and satins, in plumes and gems ; 
the benches in the foreground, to the Queen's right 
hand, seemed devoted exclusively to young girls, 
the flower — perhaps, I should rather say, the bud — 
of Villette aristocracy. Here were no jewels, no 
head-dresses, no velvet pile or silken sheen : purity, 
simplicity, and aerial grace reigned in that virgin 
band. Young heads simply braided, and fair forms 
(I was going to write sylph forms, but that would 
have been quite untrue: several of these "jeunes 
filles," who had not numbered more than sixteen or 
seventeen years, boasted contours as robust and 
solid as those of a stout Englishwoman of five-and- 
twenty) — fair forms robed in white, or pale rose, or 
placid blue, suggested thoughts of heaven and 
angels. I knew a couple, at least, of these " rose 
et blanches" specimens of humanity. Here was a 
pair of Madame Beck's late pupils — Mesdemoiselles 
Mathilde and Angelique : pupils, who, during their 
last year at school, ought to have been in the first 
class, but whose brains had never got them beyond. 



102 VILLETTE. 

the second division. In English, thev had been 
under my own charge, and hard work it was to get 
them to translate rationally a page of " The Vicar 
of Wakefield." Also during three months I had 
one of them for my vis-a-vis at table, and the 
quantity of household bread, butter, and stewed 
fruit, she would habitually consume at " second 
dejeuner " was a real world's wonder — to be ex- 
ceeded only by the fact of her actually pocketing 
slices she could not eat. Here be truths — whole- 
some truths, too. 

I knew another of these seraphs — the prettiest, 
or, at any rate, the least demure and hypocri- 
tical-looking of the lot: she was seated by the 
daughter of an English peer, also an honest, 
though haughty-looking girl ; both had entered in 
the suite of the British embassy. She (i.e. my 
acquaintance) had a slight pliant figure, not at 
all like the forms of the foreign damsels ; her hair, 
too, was not close-braided, like a shell or a skull- 
cap of satin ; it looked like hair, and waved from 
her head, long, curled, and flowing. She chatted 
away volubly, and seemed full of a light-headed 
sort of satisfaction with herself and her position. 
I did not look at Dr. Bretton ; but I knew that 



THE CONCERT. 103 

he, too, saw Ginevra Fanshawe : be bad become so 
quiet, be answered so briefly bis mother's remarks, 
he so often suppressed a sigh. Why should he 
sigh? He had confessed a taste for the pursuit 
of love under difficulties ; here was full gratification 
for that taste. His lady-love beamed upon him 
from a sphere above his own : he could not come 
near her; he was not certain that he could win 
from her a look. I watched to see if she would so 
far favour him. Our seat was not far from the 
crimson benches; we must inevitably be seen 
thence, by eyes so quick and roving as Miss Fan- 
shawe's, and very soon those optics of hers were 
upon us : at least, upon Dr. and Mrs. Bretton. I 
kept rather in the shade and out of sight, not wish- 
ing to be immediately recognized : she looked quite 
steadily at Dr. John, and then she raised a glass to 
examine his mother; a minute or two afterwards 
she laughingly whispered her neighbour ; upon the 
performance commencing, her rambling attention 
was attracted to the platform. 

On the concert I need not dwell ; the reader 
would not care to have my impressions thereanent : 
and, indeed, it would not be worth while to record 
them, as they were the impressions of an ignorance 



104 VILLETTE. 

crasse. The young ladies of the Conservatoire, 
being very much frightened, made rather a tre- 
mulous exhibition on the two grand pianos. M. 
Josef Emanuel stood by them while they played ; 
but he had not the tact or influence of his kinsman, 
wlio, under similar circumstances, would certainly 
have compelled pupils of his to demean themselves 
with heroism and self-possession. M. Paul would 
have placed the hysteric debutantes between two 
fires — terror of the audience, and terror of himself — 
and would have inspired them with the courage 
of desperation, by making the latter terror incom- 
parably the greater : M. Josef could not do this. 

Following the white muslin pianistes, came a 
fine, full-grown, sulky lady in white satin. She 
sang. Her singing just affected me like the tricks 
of a conjuror : I wondered how she did it — how 
she made her voice run up and down, and cut such 
marvellous capers; but a simple Scotch melody, 
played by a rude street minstrel, has often moved 
me more deeply. 

Afterwards stepped forth a gentleman, who, bend- 
ing his body a good deal in the direction of the 
King and Queen, and frequently ^approaching his 
white-gloved hand to the region of his heart, 



THE CONCERT. 105 

vented a bitter outcry against a certain "faussc 
Isabelle." I thought lie seemed especially to 
solicit the Queen's sympathy : but, unless I am 
egregiously mistaken, her Majesty lent her attention 
rather with the calm of courtesy than the earnest- 
ness of interest. This gentleman's state of mind 
was very harrowing, and I was glad when he 
wound up his musical exposition of the same. 

Some rousing choruses struck me as the best 
part of the evening's entertainment. There were 
present, deputies from all the best provincial choral 
societies; genuine, barrel-shaped, native Labasse- 
couriens. These worthies gave voice without 
mincing the matter : their hearty exertions had 
at least this good result — the ear drank thence a 
satisfying sense of power. 

Through the whole performance — timid instru- 
mental duets, conceited vocal solos, sonorous, 
brass-lunged choruses — my attention gave but 
one eye and one ear to the stage, the other being 
permanently retained in the service of Dr. Bret- 
ton : I could not forget him, nor cease to question 
how he was feeling, what he was thinking, whe- 
ther he was amused or the contrary. At last he 
spoke. 



106 VILLETTE. 

" And how do you like it all, Lucy ? You are 
very quiet," he said, in his own cheerful tone. 

li I am quiet," I said, " because I am so very, 
very much interested : not merely with the music, 
but with everything about me." 

He then proceeded to make some further re- 
marks, with so much equanimity and composure 
that I began to think he had really not seen what 
I had seen, and I whispered — 

" Miss Fanshawe is here : have you noticed 
her?" 

" Oh, yes ! and I observed that you noticed 
her too." 

" Is she come with Mrs. Cholmondeley, do you 
think ? " 

" Mrs. Cholmondeley is there with a very grand 
party. Yes : Ginevra was in her train ; and Mrs. 
Cholmondeley was in Lady # # # ' s train, who 
was in the Queen's train. If this were not one of 
the compact little minor European courts, whose 
very formalities are little more imposing than 
familiarities, and whose gala grandeur is but home- 
liness in Sunday array, it would sound all very 
fine." 

" Ginevra saw you, I think ? " 



THE CONCERT. 107 

" So do I think so. I have had my eye on her 
several times since you withdrew yours ; and I 
have had the honour of witnessing a little spectacle 
which you were spared." 

I did not ask what : I waited voluntary informa- 
tion ; which was presently given. 

" Miss Fanshawe," he said, " has a companion 
with her — a lady of rank. I happen to know Lady 
Sara by sight; her noble mother has called me 
in professionally. She is a proud girl, but not in 
the least insolent, and I doubt whether Ginevra 
will have gained ground in her estimation by 
making a butt of her neighbours." 

"What neighbours?" 

" Merely myself and my mother. As to me it 
is all very natural : nothing, I suppose, can be 
fairer game than the young bourgeois doctor ; but 
my mother 1 I never saw her ridiculed before. 
Do you know, the curling 'lip, and sarcastically 
levelled glass thus directed, gave me a most curious 
sensation ? " 

" Think nothing of it, Dr. John : it is not worth 
while. If Ginevra were in a giddy mood, as she 
is eminently to-night, she would make no scruple 
of laughing at that mild, pensive Queen, or that 



108 . VILLETTE. 

melancholy King. She is not actuated by malevo- 
lence, but sheer, heedless folly. To a feather- 
brained school-girl nothing is sacred." 

" But you forget : I have not been accustomed 
to look on Miss Fanshawe in the light of a feather- 
brained school-girl. Was she not my divinity — 
the angel of my career? " 

" Hem ! There was your mistake." 

<c To speak the honest truth, without any false 
rant or assumed romance, there actually was a 
moment, six months ago, when I thought her 
divine. Do you remember our conversation about 
the presents? I was not quite open with you in 
discussing that subject : the warmth with which 
you took L it up amused me. By way of having the 
full benefit of your lights, I allowed you to 
think me more in the dark than I really was. It 
was that test of the presents which first proved 
Ginevra mortal. Still her beauty retained its 
fascination : three days — three hours ago, I was 
very much her slave. As she passed me to-night, 
triumphant in beauty, my emotions did her homage; 
but for one luckless sneer, I should yet be the 
humblest of her servants. She might have scoffed at 
me, and, while wounding, she would not soon have 



THE CONCERT. 109 

alienated me : through myself, she could not in 
ten years have done what, in a moment, she has 
done through my mother." 

He held his peace awhile. Never hefore had I 
seen so much fire and so little sunshine in Dr. 
John's blue eye, as just now. 

"Lucy," he recommenced, " look well at my 
mother, and say, without fear or favour, in what 
light she now appears to you." 

" As she always does, — an English, middle -class 
gentlewoman ; well, though gravely dressed, habi- 
tually independent of pretence, constitutionally 
composed and cheerful." 

" So she seems to me — bless her ! The merry 
may laugh with mama, but the weak only will 
laugh at her. She shall not be ridiculed, with my 
consent at least; nor without my — my scorn — my 
antipathy — my " 

He stopped : and it was time — for he was getting 
excited — more it seemed than the occasion war- 
ranted. I did not then know that he had witnessed 
double cause for dissatisfaction with Miss Fan- 
shawe. The glow of his complexion, the expansion 
of his nostril, the bold curve which disdain gave 
his well-cut under lip, showed him in a new and 



110 VILLETTE. 

striking phase. Yet the rare passion of the 
constitutionally suave and serene, is not a plea- 
sant spectacle; nor did I like the sort of vindic- 
tive thrill which passed through his strong young 
frame. 

" Do I frighten you, Lucy?" he asked. 

" I cannot tell why you are so very angry." 

" For this reason," he muttered in my ear : 
" Ginevra is neither a pure angel nor a pure-minded 
woman." 

" Nonsense ! you exaggerate : she has no great 
harm in her." 

" Too much for me. I can see where you are 
blind. Now, dismiss the subject. Let me amuse 
myself by teasing mama : I will assert that she is 
flagging. Mama, pray rouse yourself." 

" John, I will certainly rouse you, if you are 
not better conducted. Will you and Lucy be silent, 
that T may hear the singing V* 

They were then thundering in a chorus, under 
cover of which all the previous dialogue had taken 
place. 

" You hear the singing, mama ! Now, I will 
wager my studs — which are genuine — against your 
paste brooch " 



THE CONCERT. Ill 

"My paste brooch, Graham? Profane boy! 
you know that it is a stone of value." 

" Oh ! that is one of your superstitions : you were 
cheated in the business." 

" I am cheated in fewer things than you imagine. 
How do you happen to be acquainted with young 
ladies of the court, John ? I have observed two of 
them pay you no small attention during the last 
half hour." 

" I wish you would not observe them." 

"Why not? Because one of them satirically 
levels her eye-glass at me ? She is a pretty, silly 
girl: but are you apprehensive that her titter will 
discomfit the old lady?" 

" The sensible, admirable old lady! Mother, you 
are better to me than ten wives yet." 

" Don't be demonstrative, John, or I shall faint, 
and you will have to carry me out; and if that 
burden were laid upon you, you would reverse your 
last speech, and exclaim, ' Mother, ten wives could 
hardly be worse to me than you are ! ' " 



The concert over, the Lottery " au benefice des 
Pauvres" came next: the interval between was one 



112 VILLETTE. 

of general relaxation, and the pleasantest imaginable 
stir and commotion. The white flock was cleared 
from the platform ; a busy throng of gentlemen 
crowded it instead, making arrangements for the 
drawing; and amongst these — the busiest of all — 
reappeared that certain well-known form, not tall 
but active, alive with the energy and movement of 
three tall men. How M. Paul did work! How 
he issued directions, and at the same time, set his 
own shoulder to the wheel ! Half-a-dozen assist- 
ants were at his beck to remove the pianos, &c. ; 
no matter, he must add to their strength his own. 
The redundancy of his alertness was half-vexing, 
half-ludicrous : in my mind I both disapproved and 
derided most of this fuss. Yet, in the midst of pre- 
judice and annoyance, I could not, while watching, 
avoid perceiving a certain not disagreeable naivete 
in all he did and said; nor could I be blind to 
certain vigorous characteristics of his physiognomy, 
rendered conspicuous now by the contrast with a 
throng of tamer faces : the deep, intent keenness of 
his eye, the power of his forehead — pale, broad, and 
full — the mobility of his most flexible mouth. He 
lacked the calm of force, but its movement and its 
fire he signally possessed. 



THE CONCERT. 113 

Meantime the whole hall was in a stir ; most 
people rose and remained standing, for a change ; 
some walked about, all talked and laughed. The 
crimson compartment presented a peculiarly ani- 
mated scene. The long cloud of gentlemen, break- 
ing into fragments, mixed with the rainbow line of 
ladies ; two or three officer-like men approached 
the King and conversed with him. The Queen, 
leaving her chair, glided along the rank of young 
ladies, who all stood up as she passed ; and to each 
in turn I saw her vouchsafe some token of kindness 
—a gracious word, look or smile. To the two pretty 
English girls, Lady Sara and Ginevra Fanshawe, 
she addressed several sentences; as she left them, 
both, and especially the latter, seemed to glow all 
over with gratification, They were afterwards 
accosted by several ladies, and a little circle of 
gentlemen gathered round them ; amongst these — 
the nearest to Ginevra — stood the Count de Hamal. 

" This room is stiflingly hot ;" said Dr. Bretton, 
rising with sudden impatience. " Lucy — mother — 
will you come a moment to the fresh air?" 

"Go with him Lucy;" said Mrs. Bretton. " I 
would rather keep my seat." 

Willingly would I have kept mine also, but 

VOL. II. i 



114 VILLETTE. 

Graham's desire must take precedence of my own ; 
I accompanied him. 

We found the night-air keen ; or at least, I did : 
he did not seem to feel it ; but it was very still, and 
the star-sown sky spread cloudless. I was wrap- 
ped in a fur shawl. We took some turns on the 
pavement; in passing under a lamp, Graham en- 
countered my eye. 

" You look pensive, Lucy : is it on my ac- 
count ? " 

" I was only fearing that you were grieved." 

"Not at all: so be of good cheer — as I am. 
Whenever I die, Lucy, my persuasion is that it 
will not be of heart-complaint. I may be stung, 
I may seem to droop for a time, but no pain or 
malady of sentiment has yet gone through my 
whole system. You have always seen me cheerful 
at home ? " 

" Generally." 

" I am glad she laughed at my mother. I would 
not give the old lady for a dozen beauties. That 
sneer did me all the good in the world. Thank 
you, Miss Fanshawe ! " And he lifted his hat from 
his waved locks, and made a mock reverence. 

" Yes," he said, " I thank her. She has made 



THE CONCERT. 



11. 



me feel that nine parts in ten of my heart have 
always been sound as a bell, and the tenth bled 
from a mere puncture : a lancet-prick that will heal 
in a trice." 

" You are angry just now, heated and indignant ; 
you will think and feel differently to-morrow." 

" /heated and indignant ! You don't know me. 
On the contrary, the heat is gone: I am cool as 
the night — which, by the way, may be too cool 
for you. We will go back." 

" Dr. John — this is a sudden change." 

iC Not it : or if it be, there are good reasons for 
it — two good reasons : I have told you one. But 
now let us re-enter." 

We did not easily regain our seats ; the lottery 
was begun, and all was excited confusion ; crowds 
blocked the sort of corridor along which we had to 
pass : it was necessary to pause for a time. Hap- 
pening to glance round— indeed I half fancied I 
heard my name pronounced — I saw quite near, the 
ubiquitous, the inevitable M. Paul. He was look- 
ing at me gravely and intently : at me, or rather, 
at my pink dress — sardonic comment on which 
gleamed in his eye. Now it was his habit to in- 
dulge in strictures on the dress, both of the teachers 



116 VILLETTE. 

and pupils, at Madame Beck's — a habit which 
the former, at least, held to be an offensive imper- 
tinence : as yet I had not suffered from it — my 
sombre daily attire not being calculated to attract 
notice. I was in no mood to permit any new en- 
croachment to-night : rather than accept his banter, 
I would ignore his presence, and accordingly steadily 
turned my face to the sleeve of Dr. John's coat; 
finding in that same black sleeve a prospect more 
redolent of pleasure and comfort, more genial, 
more friendly, I thought, than was offered by the 
dark little Professor's unlovely visage. Dr. John 
seemed unconsciously to sanction the preference 
by looking down and saying in his kind voice, 

" Ay, keep close to my side, Lucy : these crowd- 
ing burghers are no respecters of persons." 

I could not, however, be true to myself. Yielding 
to some influence, mesmeric or otherwise — an in- 
fluence unwelcome, displeasing, but effective — I 
again glanced round to see if M. Paul was gone. 
No, there he stood on the same spot, looking still, 
but with a changed eye ; he had penetrated my 
thought and read my wish to shun him. The mock- 
ing but not ill-humoured gaze was turned to a 
swarthy frown, and when I bowed, with a view to 



THE CONCERT. 117 

conciliation, I got only the stiffest and sternest of 
nods in return. 

" Whom have you made angry, Lucy ? " whis- 
pered Dr. Bretton, smiling. " Who is that savage- 
looking friend of yours?" 

" One of the professors at Madame Beck's : a 
very cross little man." 

"He looks mighty cross just now: what have 
you done to him? What is it all about? Ah, 
Lucy, Lucy ! tell me the meaning of this." 

" No mystery, I assure you. M. Emanuel is very 
exigeant, and because I looked at your coat sleeve, 
instead of curtseying and dipping to him, he thinks 
I have failed in respect." 

" The little " began Dr. John : I know not 

what more he would have added, for at that moment 
I was nearly thrown down amongst the feet of the 
crowd. M. Paul had rudely pushed past, and was 
elbowing his way with such utter disregard to the 
convenience and security to all round him, that 
a very uncomfortable pressure was the conse- 
quence. 

" I think he is what he himself would call 
' mediant,' " said Dr. Bretton. I thought so, 
too. 



118 VILLETTE. 

Slowly and with difficulty we made our way 
along the passage, and at last regained our seats. 
The drawing of the lottery lasted nearly an hour ; 
it was an animating and amusing scene ; and as we 
each held tickets, we shared in the alternations of 
hope and fear raised by each turn of the wheel. 
Two little girls, of five and six years old, drew the 
numbers ; and the prizes were duly proclaimed from 
the platform. These prizes were numerous, though 
of small value. It so fell out, that Dr. John and 
I each gained one : mine was a cigar-case, his a 
lady's head-dress — a most airy sort of blue and 
silver turban, with a streamer of plumage on one 
side, like a light snowy cloud. He was excessively 
anxious to make an exchange; but I could not be 
brought to hear reason, and to this day I keep my 
cigar-case: it serves, when I look at it, to remind 
me of old times, and one happy evening. 

Dr. John, for his part, held his turban at arm's 
length between his finger and thumb, and looked 
at it with a mixture of reverence and embarrass- 
ment highly provocative of laughter. The contem- 
plation over, he was about coolly to deposit the 
delicate fabric on the ground between his feet ; he 
seemed to have no shadow of an idea of the treat- 



THE CONCERT. 119 

ment or stowage it ought to receive : if bis mother 
had not come to the rescue, I think he would finally 
have crushed it under his arm like an opera-hat ; 
she restored it to the band-box whence it had issued. 
Graham was quite cheerful all the evening, and 
his cheerfulness seemed natural and unforced. His 
demeanour, his look, is not easily described ; there 
was something in it peculiar, and, in its way, 
original. I read in it no common mastery of the 
passions, and a fund of deep and healthy strength 
which, without any exhausting effort, bore down 
Disappointment and extracted her fang. His manner 
now, reminded me of qualities I had noticed in him 
when professionally engaged amongst the poor, the 
guilty, and the suffering, in the Basse-Ville : he 
looked at once determined, enduring, and sweet- 
tempered. Who could help liking him ? He be- 
traved no weakness which harassed all vour feelings 
with considerations as to how its faltering must be 
propped ; from him broke no irritability which 
startled calm and quenched mirth ; his lips let fall 
no caustic that burned to the bone ; his eye shot no 
morose shafts that went cold and rusty and venomed 
through your heart: beside him was rest and refuge 
— around him, fostering sunshine. 



120 VILLETTE. 

And yet lie had neither forgiven nor forgotten 
Miss Fanshawe. Once angered, I doubt if Dr. 
Bretton were to be soon propitiated — once alien- 
ated, whether he were ever to be reclaimed. He 
looked at her more than once ; not stealthily or 
humbly, but with a movement of hard}'', open ob- 
servation. De Hamal was now a fixture beside 
her ; Mrs. Cholmondeley sat near, and they and 
she were wholly absorbed in the discourse, mirth,, 
and excitement, with which the crimson seats were 
as much astir as any plebeian part of the hall. In 
the course of some apparently animated discussion, 
Ginevra once or twice lifted her hand and arm ; a 
handsome bracelet gleamed upon the latter. I saw 
that its gleam flickered in Dr. John's eye — quicken- 
ing therein a derisive, ireful sparkle ; he laughed : — 

" I think," he said, " I will lay my turban on my 
wonted altar of offerings ; there, at any rate, it 
would be certain to find favour : no grisette has a 
more facile faculty of acceptance. Strange! for after 
all, I know she is a girl of family. " 

" But you don't know her education, Dr. John, " 
said I. " Tossed about all her life from one foreign 
school to another, she may justly proffer the plea of 
ignorance in extenuation of most of her faults. And 



THE CONCERT. 121 

then, from what she says, I believe her father and 
mother were brought up much as she has been 
brought up." 

" I always understood she had no fortune ; and 
once I had pleasure in the thought, " said he. 

" She tells me, ' ' I answered, " that they are poor 
at home ; she always speaks quite candidly on such 
points : you never find her lying, as these foreigners 
will often lie. Her parents have a large family : 
they occupy such a station and possess such con- 
nections as, in their opinion, demand display ; 
stringent necessity of circumstances and inherent 
thoughtlessness of disposition combined, have en- 
gendered reckless unscrupulousness as to how they 
obtain the means of sustaining a good appearance. 
This is the state of things, and the only state of things 
she has seen from childhood upwards. " 

" I believe it — and I thought to mould her to 
something better : but, Lucy, to speak the plain 
truth, I have felt a new thing to-night, in look- 
ing at her and De Hamal. I felt it before noticing 
the impertinence directed at my mother. I saw a 
look interchanged between them immediately after 
their entrance, which threw a most unwelcome light 
on my mind. " 



122 VILLETTE. 

" How do you mean ? You have long been aware 
of the flirtation they keep up ? " 

" Ay, flirtation ! That might be an innocent girl- 
ish wile to lure on the true lover ; but what I refer 
to was not flirtation : it was a look marking mutual 
and secret understanding — it was neither girlish nor 
innocent. No woman, were she as beautiful as 
Aphrodite, who could give or receive such a glance- 
shall ever be sought in marriage by me : I would 
rather wed a paysanne in a short petticoat and high 
cap — and be sure that she was honest. ' 

I could not help smiling. I felt sure he now ex- 
aggerated the case : Ginevra, I was certain, was 
honest enough, with all her giddiness. I told him 
so. He shook his head, and said he would not be 
the man to trust her with his honour. 

" The only thing, " said I, " with which you may 
safely trust her. She would unscrupulously damage 
a husband's purse and property, recklessly try his 
patience and temper : I don't think she would 
breathe, or let another breathe, on his honour. ,: 

" You are becoming her advocate," said he. " Do 
you wish me to resume my old chains 1 ' 

" No : I am glad to see you free, and trust that 
free you will long remain. Yet be, at the same time, 
just." 



THE CONCERT. 123 

" I am so : just as Rhadamanthus, Lucy. When 
once I am thoroughly estranged, I cannot help 
being severe. But look ! the King and Queen are 
rising. I like that Queen : she has a sweet counte- 
nance. Mama, too, is excessively tired ; we shall 
never get the old lady home if we stay longer. " 

" I tired, John ? ' cried Mrs. Bretton, looking at 
least as animated and as wide-awake as her son, " I 
would undertake to sit you out yet : leave us both 
here till morning, and we should see which would 
look the most jaded by sunrise. " 

" I should not like to try the experiment ; for, in 
truth, mama, you are the most unfading of ever- 
greens, and the freshest of matrons. It must then 
be on the plea of your son's delicate nerves and 
fragile constitution that I found a petition for our 
speedy adjournment. " 

" Indolent young man ! You wish you were in 
bed, no doubt ; and I suppose you must be humoured. 
There is Lucy, too, looking quite done up. For 
shame, Lucy ! At your age, a week of evenings-out 
would not have made me a shade paler. Come 
away, both of you ; and you may laugh at the old 
lady as much as you please, but, for my part, I shall 
take charge of the band-box and turban. " 



124 VILLETTE. 

Which she did accordingly. I offered to relieve 
lier, but was shaken off with kindly contempt : my 
godmother opined that I had enough to do to take 
care of myself. Not standing on ceremony now, in 
the midst of the gay " confusion worse confounded " 
succeeding to the King and Queen's departure, 
Mrs. Bretton preceded us, and promptly made us a 
lane through the crowd. Graham followed, apos- 
trophizing his mother as the most flourishing grisette 
it had ever been his good fortune to see charged 
with carriage of a band-box ; he also desired me to 
mark her affection for the sky-blue turban, and an- 
nounced his conviction that she intended one day to 
wear it. 

The night was now very cold and very dark, but 
with little delay we found the carriage. Soon we 
were packed in it, as warm and as snug as at a 
fire-side ; and the drive home was, I think, still 
pleasanter than the drive to the concert. Pleasant 
it was, even though the coachman — having spent in 
the shop of a " marchand de vin " a portion of the 
time we passed at the concert — drove us along the 
dark and solitary chaussee, far past the turn leading 
down to La Terrasse ; we, who were occupied in 
talking and laughing, not noticing the aberration — 



THE CONCERT. 125 

till at last, Mrs. Bretton intimated that though she 
had always thought the chateau a retired spot, she 
did know it was situated at the world's end, as she 
declared seemed now to be the case, for she believed 
we had been an hour and a half en route, and had 
not yet taken the turn down the avenue. 

Then Graham looked out, and perceiving only 
dim-spread fields, with unfamiliar rows of pollards 
and limes ranged along their else invisible sunk- 
fences, began to conjecture how matters were, and 
calling a halt and descending, he mounted the box 
and took the reins himself. Thanks to him, we 
arrived safe at home about an hour and a half 
beyond our time. 

Martha had not forgotten us ; a cheerful fire was 
burning, and a neat supper spread in the dining- 
room : we were glad of both. The winter dawn 
was actually breaking before we gained our cham- 
bers. I took off my pink dress and lace mantle 
with happier feelings than I had experienced m 
putting them on. Kot all, perhaps, who had shone 
brightly arrayed at that concert could say the same ; 
for not all had been satisfied with friendship — with 
its calm comfort and modest hope. 



126 VILLETTE. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 



REACTION. 



Yet three days, and then I must go back to the 
Pensionnat. I almost numbered the moments of 
these clays upon the clock ; fain would I have 
retarded their flight ; but they glided by while 
I watched them : they were already gone while I 
yet feared their departure. 

" Lucy will not leave us to-day," said Mrs. 
[Bretton, coaxingly, at breakfast ; " she knows we 
can procure a second respite." 

61 I would not ask for one if I might have it for 
a word," said I. " I long to get the good-bye over, 
and to be settled in the Rue Fossette again. 1 
must go this morning: I must go directly; my 
trunk is packed and corded." 

It appeared, however, that my going depended 
upon Graham ; he had said he would accompany 



REACTION. 127 

me, and it so fell out that he was engaged all day, 
and only returned home at dusk. Then ensued a 
little combat of words. Mrs. Bretton and her 
son pressed me to remain one night more. I 
could have cried, so irritated and eager was I to 
be gone. I longed to leave them as the criminal 
on the scaffold longs for the axe to descend : that 
is, I wished the pang over. How much I wished it, 
they could not tell. On these points, mine was a 
state of mind out of their experience. 

It was dark when Dr. John handed me from the 
carriage at Madame Beck's door. The lamp above 
was lit ; it rained a November drizzle, as it had 
rained all day : the lamplight gleamed on the wet 
pavement. Just such a night was it as that on 
which, not a year ago, I had first stopped at this 
very threshold ; just similar was the scene. I 
remembered the very shapes of the paving-stones 
which 1 had noted with idle eye, while, with a thick- 
beating heart, I waited the unclosing of that door 
at which I stood — a solitary and a suppliant. On 
that night, too, I had briefly met him who now 
stood with me. Had I ever reminded him of 
that rencontre, or explained it? I had not, nor 
ever felt the inclination to do so : it was a pleasant 



128 VILLETTE. 

thought, laid by in my own mind, and best kept 
there. 

Graham rung the bell. The door was instantly 
opened, for it was just that period of the evening 
when the half-boarders took their departure — con- 
sequently, Rosine was on the alert. 

" Don't come in," said I to him; but he stepped 
a moment into the well-lighted vestibule. I had 
not wished him to see that " the water stood in my 
eyes," for his was too kind a nature ever to be 
needlessly shown such signs of sorrow. He always 
wished to heal — to relieve — when, physician as he 
was, neither cure nor alleviation were, perhaps, in 
his power. 

" Keep up your courage, Lucy. Think of my 
mother and myself as true friends. We will not 
forget you." 

" Nor will I forget you, Dr. John." 

My trunk was now brought in. We had 
shaken hands ; he had turned to go, but he was 
not satisfied : he had not done or said enough to 
content his generous impulses. 

" Lucy," — stepping after me — " shall you feel 
very solitary here?" 

« At first I shall." 



REACTION. 129 

" Well, my mother will soon call to see you ; and, 
meantime, I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll write 
— just any cheerful nonsense that comes into my 
head— shall I?" 

"Good, gallant heart!" thought I to myself; 
but I shook my head, smiling, and said, ' { Never 
think of it: impose on yourself no such task. 
You write to me! — you'll not have time." 

" Oh ! I will find or make time. Good-bye ! ' : 

He was gone. The heavy door crashed to : 
the axe had fallen — the pang was experienced. 

Allowing myself no time to think or feel — 
swallowing tears as if they had been wine — I 
passed to madame's sitting-room to pay the neces- 
sary visit of ceremony and respect. She received 
me with perfectly well-acted cordiality — was even 
demonstrative, though brief, in her welcome. In 
ten minutes I was dismissed. From the salle a. 
manger I proceeded to the refectory, where pupils 
and teachers were now assembled for evening 
study : again I had a welcome, and one not, I 
think, quite hollow. That over, I was free to 
repair to the dormitory. 

" And will Graham really write 1 " I questioned, 
as I sank tired on the edge of the bed. 

VOL. IT. K 



ISO VILLETTE. 

Reason, coming stealthily up to me through the 
twilight of that long, dim chamber, whispered 
sedately, — 

" He may write once. So kind is his nature, 
it may stimulate him for once to make the effort. 
But it cannot be continued — it may not be re- 
j^eated. Great were that folly which should build 
on such a promise — insane that credulity which 
should mistake the transitory rain-pool, holding 
in its hollow one draught, for the perennial spring 
yielding the supply of seasons." 

I bent my head : I sat thinking an hour longer. 
Reason still whispered me, laying on my shoulder 
a withered hand, and frostily touching my ear with 
the chill blue lips of eld. 

" If," muttered she, " if he should write, what 
then ? Do you meditate pleasure in replying ? 
Ah, fool I I warn you ! Brief be your answer. 
Hope no delight of heart — no indulgence of 
intellect : grant no expansion to feeling — give 
holiday to no single faculty : dally with no friendly 
exchange: foster no genial intercommunion. . . ." 
"But I have talked to Graham and you did 
not chide," I pleaded. 

" No," said she, " I needed not. Talk for you 



REACTION. 131 

is good discipline. You converse imperfectly. 
While you speak, there can be no oblivion of 
inferiority — no encouragement to delusion : pain, 
privation, penury stamp your language . . . 
. " But," I again broke in, " where the bodily 
presence is weak and the speech contemptible, 
surely there cannot be error in making written 
language the medium of better utterance than 
faltering lips can achieve ? " 

Reason only answered, " At your peril you 
cherish that idea, or suffer its influence to animate 
any writing of yours ! " 

" But if I feel, may I never express ? " 

" 'Sever!" declared Reason. 

I groaned under her bitter sternness. Never — 
never — oh, hard word ! This hag, this Reason, 
w T ould not let me look up, or smile, or hope : 
she could not rest unless I were altogether crushed, 
cowed, broken-in, and broken-down. According 
to her, I was born only to work for a piece of 
bread, to await the pains of death, and steadily 
through all life to despond. Reason might be 
right; yet no wonder we are glad at times to 
defy her, to rush from under her rod and give 
a truant hour to Imagination — her soft, bright foe, 



132 VILLETTE. 

our sweet Help, our divine Hope. We shall and 
must break bounds at intervals, despite the terrible 
revenge that awaits our return. Reason is vin- 
dictive as a devil : for me, she was always envenomed 
as a step-mother. If I have obeyed her it has 
chiefly been with the obedience of fear, not of love. 
Long ago I should have died of her ill-usage : her 
stint, her chill, her barren board, her icy bed, her 
savage, ceaseless blows ; but for that kinder Power 
who holds my secret and sworn allegiance. Often 
has Reason turned me out by night, in mid-winter, 
on cold snow, flinging for sustenance the gnawed, 
bone dogs had forsaken : sternly has she vowed 
her stores held nothing more for me — harshly 
denied my right to ask better things. . . . Then, 
looking up, have I seen in the sky a head amidst 
circling stars, of which the midmost and the 
brightest lent a ray sympathetic and attent, A 
spirit, softer and better than Human Reason, 
has descended with quiet flight to the waste — 
bringing all round her a sphere of air borrowed 
of eternal summer ; bringing perfume of flowers 
which cannot fade — fragrance of trees whose fruit 
is life ; bringing breezes pure from a world whose 
day needs no sun to lighten it. My hunger has 



REACTION. 133 

this good angel appeased with food, sweet and 
strange, gathered amongst gleaning angels, gar- 
nering their dew-white harvest in the first fresh 
hour of a heavenly day ; tenderly has she assuaged 
the insufferable tears which weep away life itself — 
kindly given rest to deadly weariness — generously 
lent hope and impulse to paralyzed despair. 
Divine, compassionate, succourable influence ! 
When I bend the knee to other than God, it 
shall be at thy white and winged feet, beautiful on 
mountain or on plain. Temples have been reared 
to the Sun — altars dedicated to the Moon. Oh, 
greater glory ! To thee neither hands build, nor 
lips consecrate ; but hearts, through ages, are faith- 
ful to thy worship. A dwelling thou hast, too 
w T ide for w r alls, too high for dome — a temple 
whose floors are space — rites whose mysteries 
transpire in presence, to the kindling, the harmony 
of worlds ! 

Sovereign complete ! thou hadst, for endurance, 
thy great army of martyrs ; for achievement, thy 
chosen band of worthies. Deity unquestioned, 
thine essence foils decay ! 

This daughter of Heaven remembered me to- 
night; she saw me weep and she came with com- 



134 VILLETTE. 

fort : '•' Sleep," she said. " Sleep, sweetly — I gild 
thy dreams ! " 

She kept her word, and watched me through a 
night's rest; but at dawn Reason relieved the guard. 
I awoke with a sort of start ; the rain was dashing 
against the panes, and the wind uttering a peevish 
cry at intervals; the night-lamp was dying on the 
black circular stand in the middle of the dormitory : 
day had already broken. How I pity those whom 
mental pain stuns instead of rousing ! This morning 
the pang of waking snatched me out of bed like a 
hand with a giant's gripe. How quickly I dressed 
in the cold of the raw dawn ! How deeply I drank 
of the ice-cold water in my carafe ! This was always 
my cordial, to which, like other dram-drinkers, I had 
eager recourse when unsettled by chagrin. 

Ere long the bell rang its reveillee to the whole 
school. Being dressed, I descended alone to the 
refectory, where the stove was lit and the air was 
warm ; through the rest of the house it was cold, 
with the nipping severity of a continental winter: 
though now but the beginning of November, a north 
wind had thus early brought a wintry blight over 
Europe. I remember the black stoves pleased me 
little w T hen I first came ; but now I began to associate 



REACTION. 135 

with them a sense of comfort, and liked them, as in 
England, we like a fireside. 

Sitting down before this dark comforter, I pre- 
sently fell into a deep argument with myself on life 
and its chances, on destiny and her decrees. My 
mind, calmer and stronger now than last night, 
made for itself some imperious rules, prohibiting 
under deadly penalties all weak retrospect of happi- 
ness past ; commanding a patient journeying through 
the wilderness of the present, enjoining a reliance 
on faith — a watching of the cloud and pillar which 
subdue while they guide, and awe while they illu- 
mine — hushing the impulse to fond idolatry, check- 
ing the longing out-look for a far-off promised land 
whose rivers are, perhaps, never to be reached save 
in dying dreams, whose sweet pastures are to be 
viewed but from the desolate and sepulchral summit 
of a Nebo. 

By degrees, a composite feeling of blended strength 
and pain wound itself wirily round my heart, sus- 
tained, or at least restrained, its throbbings, and 
made me fit for the day's work. I lifted my head. 

As I said before, I was sitting near the stove, let 
into the wall beneath the refectory and the carre, 
and thus sufficing to heat both apartments. Piercing 



136 VILLETTE. 

the same wall, and close beside the stove, was a 
window, looking also into the carre ; as I looked up 
a cap-tassel, a brow, two eyes filled a pane of that 
window ; the fixed gaze of those two eyes hit right 
against my own glance : they were watching me. I 
had not till that moment known that tears were on 
my cheek, but I felt them now. 

This was a strange house, where no corner was 
sacred from intrusion, where not a tear could be 
shed, nor a thought pondered, but a spy was at hand 
to note and to divine. And this new, this out-door, 
this male spy, what business had brought him to the 
premises at this unwonted hour? What possible 
right had he to intrude on me thus ? No other pro- 
fessor would have dared to cross the carre before the 
class-bell rang. M. Emanuel took no account of 
hours nor of claims : there was some book of refe- 
rence in the first-class library which he had occasion 
to consult ; he had come to seek it : on his way he 
passed the refectory. It was very much his habit to 
wear eyes before, behind, and on each side of him : 
he had seen me through the little window — he now 
opened the refectory door, and there he stood. 
" Mademoiselle, vous etes triste." 
" Monsieur, j'en ai bien le droit." 



REACTION. 137 

" Vous ctes malade de coeur et d'humeur," he 
pursued. " You are at once mournful and mutinous. 
I see on your cheek two tears which I know are 
hot as two sparks, and salt as two crystals of the sea. 
While I speak you eye me strangely. Shall I tell 
you of what I am reminded while watching you?' 

" Monsieur, I shall be called away to prayers 
shortly ; my time for conversation is very scant and 
brief at this hour — excuse — " 

" I excuse everything*," he interrupted ; " my 
mood is so meek, neither rebuff nor, perhaps, 
insult could ruffle it. You remind me, then, of a 
young she wild creature, new caught, untamed, 
viewing with a mixture of fire and fear the first 
entrance of the breaker-in." 

Unwarrantable accost ! — rash and rude if ad- 
dressed to a pupil ; to a teacher inadmissible. He 
thought to provoke a warm reply ; I had seen him 
vex the passionate to explosion before now. In 
me his malice should find no gratification ; I sat 
silent. 

" You look," said he, " like one who would 
snatch at a draught of sweet poison, and spurn 
wholesome bitters w T ith disgust." 

" Indeed, I never liked bitters ; nor do I believe 



138 VILLETTE. 

them wholesome. And to whatever is sweet, he it 
poison or food, you cannot, at least, deny its own 
delicious quality — sweetness. Better, perhaps, to 
die quickly a pleasant death, than drag on long 
a charmless life." 

" Yet," said he, " you should take your bitter 
dose duly and daily, if I had the power to ad- 
minister it ; and, as to the well-beloved poison, I 
would, perhaps, break the very cup which held it." 

I sharply turned my head away, partly because 
his presence utterly displeased me, and partly be- 
cause I wished to shun questions : lest, in my present 
mood, the effort of answering should overmaster 
self-command. 

" Come," said he, more softly, " tell me the 
truth — you grieve at being parted from friends — is 
it not so ? " 

The insinuating softness was not more acceptable 
than the inquisitorial curiosity. I was silent. He 
came into the room, sat down on the bench about 
two yards from me, and persevered long, and, for 
him, patiently, in attempts to draw me into conver- 
sation — attempts necessarily unavailing, because I 
could not talk. At last I entreated to be let alone. 
In uttering the request, my voice faltered, my head 



REACTION. 139 

sank on my arms and the table. I wept bitterly, 
though quietly. He sat a while longer. I did not 
look up nor speak, till the closing door and his 
retreating step told me that he was gone. These 
tears proved a relief. 

I had time to bathe my eyes before breakfast, 
and I suppose I appeared at that meal as serene as 
any other person : not, however, quite as jocund- 
looking as the young lady who placed herself in the 
seat opposite mine, fixed on me a pair of somewhat 
small eyes twinkling gleefully, and frankly stretched 
across the table a white hand to be shaken. Miss 
Fanshawe's travels, gaieties, and flirtations agreed 
with her mightily ; she had become quite plump, 
her cheeks looked as round as apples. I had seen 
her last in elegant evening attire. I don't know that 
she looked less charming now in her school-dress, a 
kind of careless peignoir of a dark-blue material, 
dimly and dingily plaided with black. I even think 
this dusky wrapper gave her charms a triumph ; 
enhancing by contrast the fairness of her skin, the 
freshness of her bloom, the golden beauty of her 
tresses. 

" I am glad you are come back, Timon," said 
she. Timon was one of her dozen names for me. 



140 VILLETTE. 

" You don't know how often I have wanted you in 
this dismal hole." 

" Oh ! have you? Then, of course, if you 
wanted me, you have something for me to do : 
stocking's to mend, perhaps V I never gave 
Ginevra a minute's or a farthing's credit for dis- 
interestedness." 

"Crabbed and crusty as ever!" said she. "I 
expected as much : it would not be you if you did 
not snub one. But now, come, grandmother, I 
hope you like coffee as much, and pistolets as little 
as ever: are you disposed to barter?" 

il Take your own way." 

This way consisted in a habit she had of making 
me convenient. She did not like the morning cup of 
coffee; its school brewage not being strong or sweet 
enough to suit her palate ; and she had an excel- 
lent appetite,like any other healthy school-girl, for the 
morning pistolets or rolls, which were new-baked 
and very good, and of which a certain allowance 
was served to each. This allowance beino- more than 
I needed, I gave half to Ginevra ; never varying 
in my preference, though many others used to covet 
the superfluity; and she in return would sometimes 
give me a portion of her coffee. This morning I 



REACTION. 141 

was glad of the draught ; hunger I had none, and 
with thirst I was parched. I don't know why I 
choose to give my bread rather to Ginevra than 
to another ; nor why, if two had to share the con- 
venience of one drinking-vessel, as sometimes hap- 
pened — for instance, when we took a long walk 
into the country, and halted for refreshment at a 
farm — I always contrived that she should be my 
convive, and rather liked to let her take the lion's 
share, whether of the white beer, the sweet wine, or 
the new milk: so it was, however, and she knew it; 
and, therefore, while we wrangled daily, we were 
never alienated. 

After breakfast my custom was to withdraw to the 
first classe, and sit and read, or think (oftenest the 
latter) there alone, till the nine o'clock bell threw 
open all doors, admitted the gathered rush of ex- 
ternes and demi-pensionnaires, and gave the signal 
for entrance on that bustle and business to which, 
till five p. m., there was no relax. 

I was just seated this morning, when a tap came 
to the door. 

" Pardon, mademoiselle," said a pensionnaire, 
entering gently ; and having taken from her desk 
some necessary book or paper, she withdrew on tip- 



142 VILLETTE. 

toe, murmuring, as she passed me, " Que mademoi- 
selle est appliquee ! " 

Appliquee, indeed ! The means of application 
were spread before me, but I was doing nothing . 
and had done nothing, and meant to do nothing. 
Thus does the world give us credit for merits we 
have not. Madame Beck herself deemed me a 
regular bas-bleu, and often and solemnly used to 
warn me not to study too much, lest " the blood 
should all go to my head." Indeed, everybody in 
the Rue. Fossette held a superstition that " Meess 
Lucie " was learned ; with the notable exception of 
M. Emanuel : who, by means peculiar to himself, 
and quite inscrutable to me, had obtained a not 
inaccurate inkling of my real qualifications, and 
used to take quiet opportunities of chuckling 
in my ear his malign glee over their scant 
measure. For my part, I never troubled myself 
about this penury. I dearly like to think my own 
thoughts ; I had great pleasure in reading a few 
books, but not many : preferring always those in 
whose style or sentiment the writer's individual 
nature was plainly stamped; flagging inevitably 
over characterless books, however clever and meri- 
torious : perceiving well that, as far as my own 



REACTION. 143 

mind was concerned, God had limited its powers 
and its action — thankful, I trust, for the gift be- 
stowed, but unambitious of higher endowments, 
not restlessly eager after higher culture. 

The polite pupil was scarcely gone, when, un- 
ceremoniously, without tap, in burst a second 
intruder. Had I been blind I should have known 
who this was. A constitutional reserve of manner 
had by this time told with wholesome and, for me, 
commodious effect, on the manners of my co-inmates ; 
rarely did I now suffer from rude or intrusive 
treatment. When I first came, it would happen 
once and again that a blunt German would clap me 
on the shoulder, and ask me to run a race ; or a 
riotous Labassecourienne seize me by the arm and 
drag me towards the play-ground : urgent pro- 
posals to take a swing at the " Pas de Geant," 
or to join in a certain romping hide-and-seek game 
called " Un, deux, trois," were formerly also of 
hourly occurrence ; but all these little attentions 
had ceased some time ago — ceased, too, without 
my finding it necessary to be at the trouble of 
point-blank cutting them short. I had now no 
familiar demonstration to dread or endure, save 
from one quarter ; and as that was English I could 



144 VILLETTE. 

bear it. Ginevra Fanshawe made no scruple of — 
at times — catching me as I was crossing the carre, 
whirling me round in a compulsory waltz, and 
heartily enjoying the mental and physical discom- 
fiture her proceeding induced. Ginevra Fanshawe it 
was who now broke in upon my " learned leisure." 
She carried a huge music-book under her arm. 

" Go to your practising," said I to her at once: 
" away with you to the little salon ! " 

" Not till I have had a talk with you, chere amie. 
I know where you have been spending your vaca- 
tion, and how you have commenced sacrificing to 
the graces, and enjoying life like any other belle. 
I saw you at the concert the other night, dressed, 
actually, like anybody else. Who is your tail- 
leuse?" 

" Tittle-tattle : how prettily it begins ! My tail- 
leuse ! — a fiddlestick! Come, sheer off, Ginevra. 
I really don't want your company." 

" But when I want yours so much, ange farouche, 
what does a little reluctance on your part signify ? 
Dieu merci ! we know how to manoeuvre with our 
gifted compatriote — the learned ' ourse Britannique/ 
And so, Ourson, you know Isidore ? n 

" I know John Bretton." 



REACTION. ]45 

" Oh, hush !" (putting her fingers in her ears) " you 
crack my tympanums with your rude Anglicisms. 
But, how is our well-beloved John? Do tell me 
about him. The poor man must be in a sad w r ay. 
What did he say to my behaviour the other night X 
Wasn't I cruel?" 

"Do you think I noticed you ? " 

"It was a delightful evening. Oh, that divine 
de Hamal ! And then to watch the other sulking 
and dying in the distance ; and the old lady — my 
future mama-in-law ! But I am afraid I and Lady 
Sara were a little rude in quizzing her." 

" Lady Sara never quizzed her at all ; and for 
what you did, don't make yourself in the least un- 
easy : Mrs. Bretton will survive your sneer." 

" She may : old ladies are tough ; but that poor 
son of hers ! Do tell me what he said : I saw he 
was terribly cut up." 

" He said you looked as if, at heart, you were 
already Madame de Hamal." 

" Did he ? " she cried, with delight. " He noticed 
that? How charming! I thought he would be 
mad with jealousy." 

" Ginevra, have you seriously done with Dr. 
Bretton ? Do you w T ant him to give you up ? " 

VOL. II. L 



146 VILLETTE. 

"Oh! you know lie cant do that: but wasn't he 
mad ? " 

"Quite mad," I assented; "as mad as a March 
hare." 

" Well, and how ever did you get him home ? " 

" How ever, indeed ! Have you no pity on his 
poor mother and me ? Fancy us holding him 
tight down in the carriage, and he raving between 
us, fit to drive everybody delirious. The very coach- 
man went wrong, somehow, and we lost our way." 

"You don't say so? You are laughing at me. 
iS T ow, Lucy Snowe " 

" I assure you it is fact — and fact, also, that Dr. 
Bretton would not stay in the carriage : he broke 
from us, and would ride outside." 

" And afterwards ? " 

" Afterwards — when we did reach home — the 
scene transcends description." 

"Oh, but describe it — you know it is such fun ! ' 

" Fun for you, Miss Fanshawe ; but" (with stern 
gravity) " you know the proverb — l What is sport to 
one may be death to another.' " 

"Go on, there's a darling Timon." 

" Conscientiously, I cannot, unless you assure mo 
you have some heart." 



REACTION. 147 

" I have — sucli an immensity, you don't know ! ' 

" Good ! In that case, you will be able to con- 
ceive Dr. Graham Bretton rejecting* his supper in 
the first instance — the chicken, the sweet-bread 
prepared for his refreshment, left on the table un- 
touched. Then but it is of no use dwelling at 

length on harrowing details. Suffice it to say, that 
never, in the most stormy fits and moments of his 
infancy, had his mother such work to tuck the 
sheets about him as she had that night." 

"He wouldn't lie still?" 

" He wouldn't lie still : there it was. The sheets 
might be tucked in, but the thing was to keep them 
tucked in." 

" And what did he say 1 " 

" Say ! Can't you imagine him demanding his 
divine Ginevra, anathematizing that demon, De 
Hamal — raving about golden locks, blue eyes, white 
arms, glittering bracelets?" 

" No, did he ? He saw the bracelet ? " 

" Saw the bracelet ? Yes, as plain as I saw it : 
and, perhaps, for the first time, he saw also the 
brand-mark with which its pressure has circled 
your arm. Ginevra," (rising, and changing my 
tone) " come, we will have an end of this. Go 



148 VILLETTE. 

away to your practising." And I opened the 
door. 

" But you've not told me all." 

" You had better not wait until I do tell you all. 
Such extra communicativeness could give you no 
pleasure. March ! " 

" Cross thing ! " said she; but she obeyed : and, 
indeed, the first classe was my territory, and she 
could not there legally resist a notice of quittance 
from me. 

Yet, to speak the truth, never had I been less 
dissatisfied with her than I was then. There w r as 
pleasure in thinking of the contrast between the 
reality and my description — to remember Dr. John 
enjoying the drive home, eating his supper with 
relish, and retiring to rest with Christian com- 
posure. It was only when I saw him really unhappy 
that I felt really vexed with the fair, frail cause of 
his suffering. 



A fortnight passed ; I was getting once more 
inured to the harness of school, and lapsing from 
the passionate pain of change to the palsy of custom. 



REACTION. 149 

One afternoon in crossing the carre, on my way to 
the first class, where I was expected to assist at a 
lesson of " style and literature," I saw, standing by 
one of the long and large windows, Rosine, the 
portress. Her attitude, as usual, was quite non- 
clialante. She always " stood at ease ;" one of her 
hands rested in her apron-pocket, the other, at this 
moment, held to her eyes a letter, whereof Made- 
moiselle coolly perused the address, and deliberately 
studied the seal. 

A letter ! The shape of a letter similar to that 
had haunted my brain in its very core for seven 
days past. I had dreamed of a letter last night. 
Strong magnetism drew me to that letter now ; yet, 
whether I should have ventured to demand of Rosine 
so much as a glance at that white envelope, with the 
spot of red wax in the middle, I know not. No ; I 
think I should have sneaked past in terror of a 
rebuff from Disappointment: my heart throbbed 
now as if I already heard the tramp of her approach. 
Nervous mistake ! It was the rapid step of the 
Professor of Literature measuring the corridor. I 
fled before him. Could I but be seated quietly at 
my desk before his arrival, with the class under my 
orders all in disciplined readiness, he would, perhaps. 



150 VILLETTE. 

exempt me from notice ; but, if caught lingering in 
the carre, I should be sure to come in for a special 
harangue. I had time to get seated, to enforce 
perfect silence, to take out my work, and to com- 
mence it amidst the profoundest and best trained 
hush, ere M. Emanuel entered with his vehement 
burst of latch and panel, and his deep, redundant 
bow, prophetic of choler. 

As usual he broke upon us like a clap of thunder; 
but instead of flashing lightning-wise "from the door 
to the estrade, his career halted midway at my desk. 
Setting his face towards me and the window, his 
back to the pupils and the room, he gave me a 
look — such a look as might have licensed me to 
stand straight up and demand what he meant — a 
look of scowling distrust. 

" Voila ! pour vous," said he, drawing his hand 
from his waistcoat, and placing on my desk a letter 
— the very letter I had seen in Rosine's hand — the 
letter whose face of enamelled white and single 
Cyclop's-eye of vermilion-red had printed them- 
selves so clear and perfect on the retina of an inward 
vision. I knew it, I felt it to be the letter of my 
hope, the fruition of my wish, the release from my 
doubt, the ransom from my terror. This letter M. 



REACTION. 151 

Paul, with his unwarrantably interfering habits, had 
taken from the portress, and now delivered it 
himself. 

I might have been angry, but had not a second 
for the sensation. Yes : I held in my hand not a 
slight note, but an envelope, which must, at least, 
contain a sheet : it felt, not flimsy, but firm, substan- 
tial, satisfying. And here was the direction, i( Miss 
Lucy Snowe," in a clean, clear, equal, decided hand ; 
and here was the seal, round, full, deftly dropped by 
untremulous fingers, stamped with the well-cut 
impress of initials, ie J. G. B." I experienced a 
happy feeling — a glad emotion which went warm to 
my heart, and ran lively through all my veins. For 
once a hope was realized. I held in my hand a 
morsel of real solid joy : not a dream, not an image of 
the brain, not one of those shadowy chances imagina- 
tion pictures, and on which humanity starves but 
cannot live; not a mess of that manna I drearily 
eulogized awhile ago — which, indeed, at first melts 
on the lips with an unspeakable and preternatural 
sweetness, but which, in the end, our souls full 
surely loathe ; longing deliriously for natural and 
earth-grown food, wildly praying Heaven's Spirits to 
reclaim their own spirit-dew and essence — an aliment 



152 V1LLETTE. 

divine, but for mortals deadly. It was neither sweet 
hail, nor small coriander-seed — neither slight wafer, 
nor luscious honey, I had lighted on; it was the wild 
savoury mess of the hunter, nourishing and salu- 
brious meat, forest -fed or desert -reared, fresh, 
healthful, and life-sustaining. It was what the old 
dying patriarch demanded of his son Esau, pro- 
mising him in requital the blessing of his last 
breath. It was a godsend ; and I inwardly thanked 
the God who had vouchsafed it. Outwardly I only 
thanked man, crying, " Thank you, thank you, 
Monsieur ! " 

Monsieur curled his lip, gave me a vicious 
glance of the eye, and strode to his estrade. M. 
Paul was not at all a good little man, though he 
had good points. 

Did I read my letter there and then ? Did I 
consume the venison at once and with haste, as if 
Esau's shaft flew every day 1 

1 knew better. The cover with its address ; the 
seal, with its three clear letters, was bounty and 
abundance for the present. I stole from the room, 
I procured the key of the great dormitory which was 
kept locked by day. I went to my bureau ; with a 
sort of haste and trembling lest Madame should 



REACTION. 153 

creep up-stairs and spy me, I opened a drawer, un- 
locked a box, and took out a case, and — having feasted 
my eyes with one more look, and approached the 
seal, with a mixture of awe and shame and delight, 
to my lips — I folded the untasted treasure, yet all 
fair and inviolate, in silver paper, committed it to 
the case, shut up box and drawer, reclosed, relocked 
the dormitory, and returned to class, feeling as if 
fairy tales were true and fairy gifts no dream. 
Strange, sweet insanity ! And this letter, the source 
of my joy, I had not yet read : did not yet know the 
number of its lines. 

When I re-entered the school-room, behold M. 
Paul raging like a pestilence ! Some pupil had not 
spoken audibly or distinctly enough to suit his ear 
and taste, and now she and others were weeping, 
and he was raving from his estrade almost livid. 
Curious to mention, as I appeared, he fell on me. 

" Was I the mistress of these girls ? Did I 
profess to teach them the conduct befitting ladies ? 
— and did I permit and, he doubted not, encourage 
them to strangle their mother-tongue in their 
throats, to mince and mash it between their 
teeth, as if they had some base cause to be 
ashamed of the words they uttered ? Was this 



154 VILLETTE. 

modesty ? He knew better. It was a vile pseudo 
sentiment — the offspring or the forerunner of 
evil. Rather than submit to this mopping and 
mowing, this mincing and grimacing, this grinding 
of a noble tongue, this general affectation and 
sickening stubbornness of the pupils of the first 
class, he would throw them up for a set of insup- 
portable petites maitresses, and confine himself to 
teaching the A B C to the babies of the third 
lvision. 

What could I say to all this? Really nothing; 
and I hoped he would allow me to be silent. 
The storm recommenced. 

" Every answer to his queries was then refused ? 
It seemed to be considered in that place — that 
conceited boudoir of a first class, with its preten- 
tious book-cases, its green-baized desks, its rubbish 
of flower-stands, its trash of framed pictures and 
maps, and its foreign surveillante, forsooth ! — it 
seemed to be the fashion to think there that the 
Professor of Literature was not worthy of a reply ! 
These were new ideas ; imported, he did not doubt, 
straight from ' la Grande Bretaigne': they savoured 
of island insolence and arrogance." 

Lull the second — the girls, not one of whom 



REACTION. 155 

was ever known to weep a tear for the rebukes 
of any other master, now all melting like snow- 
statues before the intemperate heat of M. Emanuel : 
I, not yet much shaken, sitting down, and ven- 
turing to resume my work. 

Something — either in my continued silence or in 
the movement of my hand, stitching — transported 
M. Emanuel beyond the last boundary of patience; 
he actually sprung from his estrade. The stove 
stood near my desk, and he attacked it; the little 
iron door was nearly dashed, from its hinges, the 
fuel was made to fly. 

" Est-ce que vous avez l'intention de m'in- 
sulter?" said he to me, in a low, furious voice, 
as he thus outraged, under pretence of arranging, 
the fire. 

It was time to soothe him a little if possible. 

ei Mais, monsieur," said I, " I w T ould not insult 
you for the world. I remember too well that you 
once said we should be friends." 

I did not intend my voice to falter, but it did : 
more, I think, through the agitation of late delight 
than in any spasm of present fear. Still there 
certainly was something in M. Paul's anger — a 
kind of passion of emotion — that specially tended to 



156 VILLETTE. 

draw tears. I was not unhappy, nor much afraid, 
yet I wept. 

" Allons, allons ! " said he presently, looking 
round and seeing the deluge universal. " Decidedly 
I am a monster and a ruffian. I have only one 
pocket-handkerchief," he added, " but if I had 
twenty, I would offer you each one. Your 
teacher shall be your representative. Here, Miss 
Lucy." 

And he took forth and held out to me a clean 
silk handkerchief. Now a person who did not 
know M. Paul, who was unused to him and his 
impulses, would naturally have bungled at this 
offer — declined accepting the same — etcetera. But 
I too plainly felt this would never do : the slightest 
hesitation would have been fatal to the incipient 
treaty of peace. I rose and met the handkerchief 
half-way, received it with decorum, wiped therewith 
my eyes, and, resuuiing my seat, and retaining the 
flag of truce in my hand and on my lap, took 
especial care during the remainder of the lesson to 
touch neither needle nor thimble, scissors nor 
muslin. Many a jealous glance did M. Paul cast 
at these implements ; he hated them mortally, 
considering sewing a source of distraction from the 



REACTION. 157 

attention due to himself. A very eloquent lesson 
he gave, and very kind and friendly was he to 
the close. Ere he had done, the clouds were 
dispersed and the sun shining out — tears were 
exchanged for smiles. 

In quitting the room he paused once more at 
my desk. 

"And your letter?' said he, this time not quite, 
fiercely. 

" I have not yet read it, monsieur." 

i( Ah ! it is too good to read at once : you 
save it, as, when I was a boy, I used to save a 
peach whose bloom was very ripe ? ' 

The guess came so near the truth, I could not 
prevent a suddenly-rising warmth in my face from 
revealing as much. 

" You promise yourself a pleasant moment," 
said he, l( in reading that letter ; you will open it 
when alone — n'est ce pas? Ah! a smile answers. 
Well, well ! one should not be too harsh ; ' la 
jeunesse n'a qu'un temps. 

" Monsieur, monsieur ! " I cried or rather whis- 
pered after him, as he turned to go, " do not leave me 
under a mistake. This is merely a friend's letter. 
Without reading it, I can vouch for that." 



158 VILLETTE. 

" Je congois, je concois : on sait ce que c'est 
qa'un ami. Bon-jour, mademoiselle ! " 

" But, monsieur, here is your handker- 
chief." 

" Keep it, keep it, till the letter is read, then 
bring' it me ; I shall read the billet's tenor in 
your eyes." 

When he was gone, the pupils having already 
poured out of the school-room into the berceau, and 
thence into the garden and court to take their cus- 
tomary recreation before the five o'clock dinner, I 
stood a moment thinking, and absently twisting the 
handkerchief round my arm. For some reason — 
gladdened, I think, by a sudden return of the golden 
glimmer of childhood, roused by an unwonted 
renewal of its buoyancy, made merry by the liberty 
of the closing hour, and, above all, solaced at heart 
by the joyous consciousness of that treasure in the 
case, box, drawer up-stairs, — I fell to playing with 
the handkerchief as if it were a ball, casting it 
into the air and catching it as it fell. The game 
was stopped by another hand than mine — a 
hand emerging from a paletot-sleeve and stretched 
over my shoulder ; it caught the extemporized 
plaything and bore it away with these sullen words : 



REACTION. 159 

" Je vois bien que vous vous moquez de moi et 
tie mes effets." 

Really that little man was dreadful : a mere 
sprite of caprice and ubiquity : one never knew 
either his whim or his whereabout. 



160 



VILLETTE. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 



THE LETTER. 



When all was still in the house ; when dinner was 
over and the noisy recreation-hour past ; when 
darkness had set in, and the quiet lamp of study 
was lit in the refectory ; when the externes were 
gone home, the clashing door and clamorous bell 
hushed for the evening ; when Madame was safely 
settled in the salle a manger in company with her 
mother and some friends ; I then glided to the 
kitchen, begged a bougie for one half hour for a 
particular occasion, found acceptance of my petition 
at the hands of my friend Goton, who answered 
" Mais certainement, chou-chou, vous en aurez deux, 
si vous voulez." And, light in hand, I mounted 
noiseless to the dormitory. 

Great was my chagrin to find in that apartment a 
pupil gone to bed indisposed, — greater when I 



THE LETTER. 161 

recognized amid the muslin night-cap borders, the 
et figure chiffonee " of Mistress Ginevra Fanshawe ; 
supine at this moment, it is true — but certain to 
wake and overwhelm me with chatter when the 
interruption would be least acceptable : indeed, as 
I watched her, a slight twinkling of the eyelids 
warned me that the present appearance of repose 
might be but a ruse, assumed to cover sly vigilance 
over " Timon's ' movements : she was not to be 
trusted. And I had so wished to be alone, just to 
read my precious letter in peace. 

Well, I must go to the classes. Having sought and 
found my prize in its casket, I descended. Ill-luck 
pursued me. The classes were undergoing sweep- 
ing and purification by candle-light, according to 
hebdomadal custom : benches were piled on desks, 
the air was dim with dust, damp coffee-grounds 
(used by Labassecourien housemaids instead of tea- 
leaves) darkened the floor ; all was hopeless con- 
fusion. Baffled, but not beaten, I withdrew, bent 
as resolutely as ever on finding solitude somewhere. 

Taking a key whereof I knew the repository, I 
mounted three staircases in succession, reached a 
dark, narrow, silent landing, opened a worm-eaten 
door, and dived into the deep, black, cold garret. 

VOL. II. m 



162 VILLETTE. 

Here none would follow me — none interrupt — 
not Madame herself. I shut the garret-door ; I 
placed my light on a doddered and mouldy chest of 
drawers ; I put on a shawl, for the air was ice-cold ; 
I took my letter, trembling with sweet impatience ; 
I broke its seal. 

" Will it be long— will it be short ? " thought I, 
passing my hand across my eyes to dissipate the 
silvery dimness of a suave, south wind shower. 

It was lon°\ 

« Will it be cool ?— will it be kind ? " 

It was kind. 

To my checked, bridled, disciplined expectation, 
it seemed very kind ; to my longing and famished 
thought it seemed, perhaps, kinder than it was. 

So little had I hoped, so much had I feared ; 
there was a fullness of delight in this taste of frui- 
tion — such, perhaps, as many a human being passes 
through life without ever knowing. The poor 
English teacher in the frosty garret, reading by a 
dim candle guttering in the wintry air, a letter simply 
good-natured — nothing more : though that good- 
nature then seemed to me god-like — was happier 
than most queens in palaces. 

Of course, happiness of such shallow origin could 



THE LETTER. 



163 



but be brief; yet, while it lasted, it was genuine 
and exquisite: a bubble — but a sweet bubble— of 
real honey-dew. Dr. John had written to me at 
length ; he had written to me with pleasure ; he 
had written in benignant mood, dwelling with sunny 
satisfaction on scenes that had passed before his 
eyes and mine, — on places we had visited together — 
on conversations we had held — on all the little 
subject-matter, in short, of the last few halcyon 
weeks. But the cordial core of the delight was, a 
conviction the blithe, genial language generously 
imparted, that it had been poured out — not merely 
to content me — but to gratify himself. A gratification 
he might never more desire, never more seek — an 
hypothesis in every point of view approaching the 
certain ; but that concerned the future. This present 
moment had no pain, no blot, no want ; full, pure, 
perfect, it deeply blessed me. A passing seraph 
seemed to have rested beside me, leaned towards 
my heart, and reposed on its throb a softening, 
cooling, healing, hallowing wing. Dr. John, you 
pained me afterwards : forgiven be every ill — freely 
forgiven — for the sake of that one dear remembered 
good ! 

Are there wicked things, not human, which envy 



164 VILLETTE. 

human bliss? Are there evil influences haunting 
the air, and poisoning it for man ? What was near 
me? . . . 

Something in that vast solitary garret sounded 
strangely. Most surely and certainly I heard, as 
it seemed, a stealthy foot on that floor : a sort of 
gliding out from the direction of the black recess 
haunted by the malefactor cloaks. I turned : my 
light was dim ; the room was long — but, as I 
live ! I saw in the middle of that ghostly 
chamber a figure all black or white ; the skirts 
straight, narrow, black ; the head bandaged, veiled, 
white. 

Say what you will, reader — tell me I was nervous, 
or mad ; affirm that I was unsettled by the excite- 
ment of that letter ; declare that I dreamed : this I 
vow — I saw there — in that room — on that night — 
an image like — a nun. 

I cried out ; I sickened. Had the shape ap- 
proached me I might have swooned. It receded : I 
made for the door. How I descended all the stairs 
I know not. By instinct I shunned the refectory, 
and shaped my course to Madame's sitting-room : I 
burst in. I said — 

" There is something in the grenier : I have been 



THE LETTER. 165 

there : I saw something. Go and look at it, all of 
you! 

I said, "All of you ;" for the room seemed to me 
full of people, though, in truth, there were but four 
present : Madame Beck ; her mother, Madame Kint, 
who was out of health, and now staying with her on 
a visit ; her brother M. Victor Kint, and another 
gentleman : who, when I entered the room, was 
conversing with the old lady, and had his back 
towards the door. 

My mortal fear and faintness must have made me 
deadly pale. I felt cold and shaking. They all 
rose in consternation ; they surrounded me. I urged 
them to go to the grenier ; the sight of the gentle- 
men did me good and gave me courage : it seemed 
as if there was some help and hope, with men at 
hand. I turned to the door, beckoning them to 
follow. They wanted to stop me ; but I said they 
must come this way : they must see what I had 
seen — something strange, standing in the middle of 
the garret. And, now, I remembered my letter, left 
on the drawers with the light. This precious letter ! 
Flesh or spirit must be defied for its sake. I flew 
up stairs, hastening the faster as I knew I was fol- 
lowed : they were obliged to come. 



166 VILLETTE. 

Lo ! When I readied the garret-door, all within 
was dark as a pit : the light was out. Happily, 
some one — Madame, I think, with her usual calm 
sense — had brought a lamp from the room ; speedily, 
therefore, as they came up, a ray pierced the opaque 
blackness. There stood the bougie quenched on the 
drawers ; but where was the letter? And I looked 
for that now, and not for the nun. 

" My letter ! my letter ! " I panted and plained, 
almost beside myself. I groped on the floor, wring- 
ing my hands wildly. Cruel, cruel doom ! To 
have my bit of comfort preternaturally snatched 
from me, ere I had well tasted its virtue ! 

I don't know what the others were doing ; I could 
not watch them : they asked me questions 1 did not 
answer ; they ransacked all corners ; they prattled 
about this and that, disarrangement of cloaks, a 
breach or crack in the sky-light — I know not what. 
" Something or somebody has been here," was 
sagely averred. 

"Oh! they have taken my letter!" cried the 
grovelling, groping, monomaniac. 

" What letter, Lucy? My dear girl, what letter?" 
asked a known voice in my ear. Could I believe 
that ear ? No : and I looked up. Could I trust 



THE LETTER. 167 

ray eyes ? Had I recognized the tone ? Did I now 
Jook on the face of the writer of that very letter? 
Was this gentleman near me in this dim garret, 
John Graham — Dr. Bretton himself? 

Yes : it was. He had been called in that very 
evening to prescribe for some access of illness in old 
Madame Kint; he was the second gentleman pre- 
sent in the salle a manner when I entered. 

" Was it my letter, Lucy 1" 

" Your own : yours — the letter you wrote to me 
I had come here to read it quietly. I could not 
find another spot where it was possible to have 
it to myself. I had saved it all day — never opened 
it till this evening : it was scarcely glanced over : I 
cannot bear to lose it. Oh, my letter !" 

" Hush! don't cry and distress yourself so 
cruelly. What is it worth ? Hush ! Come out 
of this cold room ; they are going to send for the 
police now to examine further: we need not stay 
here— come, we will go down." 

A warm hand, taking my cold fingers, led me 
down to a room where there was a fire. Dr. John 
and I sat before the stove. He talked to me and 
soothed me with unutterable goodness, promising 
me twenty letters for the one lost. If there are 



168 VILLETTE. 

words and wrongs like knives, whose deep-inflicted 
lacerations never heal — cutting injuries and insults 
of serrated and poison-dripping edge — so, too, there 
are consolations of tone too fine for the ear not 
fondly and for ever to retain their echo : caressing 
kindnesses — loved, lingered over through a whole 
life, recalled with unfaded tenderness, and answer- 
ing the call with undimmed shine, out of that raven 
cloud foreshadowing Death himself. I have been 
told since, that Dr. Bretton was not so nearly 
perfect as I thought him : that his actual character 
lacked the depth, height, compass, and endurance 
it possessed in my creed. I don't know : he was as 
good to me as the well is to the parched wayfarer — 
as the sun to the shivering jail-bird. I remember 
him heroic. Heroic at this moment will I hold 
him to be. 

He asked me, smiling, why I cared for his 
letter so very much. I thought, but did not 
say, that I prized it like the blood in my veins. 
I only answered that I had so few letters to care 
for. 

" I am sure you did not read it," said he ; " or you 
would think nothing of it ! " 

" I read it, but only once. I want to read it 



THE LETTER. 169 

again. I am sorry it is lost." And I could not 
help weeping afresh. 

" Lucy, Lucy, my poor little god-sister (if there 
be such a relationship), here — here is your letter. 
Why is it not better worth such tears, and such 
tenderly exaggerating faith ! " 

Curious, characteristic manoeuvre ! His quick 
eye had seen the letter on the floor where I sought 
it ; his hand, as quick, had snatched it up. He had 
hidden it in his waistcoat pocket. If my trouble 
had wrought with a whit less stress and reality, I 
doubt whether he would ever have acknowledged 
or restored it. Tears of temperature one degree 
cooler than those I shed would only have amused 
Dr. John. 

Pleasure at reo-ainins: made me forget merited 
reproach for the teasing torment ; my joy was 
great ; it could not be concealed : yet I think it 
broke out more in countenance than language. I 
said little. 

" Are you satisfied now ? " asked Dr. John. 

I replied that I was — satisfied and happy. 

" Well then," he j;>roceeded, « how do you feel 
physically ? Are you growing calmer ? Not much ; 
for you tremble like a leaf still." 



170 VILLETTE. 

It seemed to me, however, that I was sufficiently 
calm : at least I felt no longer terrified. I expressed 
myself composed. 

" You are able, consequently, to tell me what 
you saw? Your account was quite vague, do you 
know ? You looked white as the wall ; but you 
only spoke of f something,' not defining what. Was 
it a man ? Was it an animal? What was it?" 

" I never will tell exactly what I saw," said I, 
is unless some one else sees it too, and then I will 
give corroborative testimony ; but otherwise, I shall 
be discredited and accused of dreaming." 

" Tell me," said Dr. Bretton ; " I will hear it in 
my professional character : I look on you now from 
a professional point of view, and I read, perhaps, all 
you would conceal — in your eye, which is curiously 
vivid and restless ; in your cheek, which the blood 
has forsaken ; in your hand, which you cannot 
steady. Come, Lucy, speak and tell me." 

" You would laugh ? " 

" If you don't tell me you shall have no more 
letters." 

"You are laughing now." 

" I will again take away that single epistle : being 
mine, I think I have a right to reclaim it." 



THE LETTER. 171 

I felt raillery in his words : it made me grave 
and quiet; but I folded up the letter and covered 
it from sight. 

" You may hide it, but I can possess it any 
moment I choose. You don't know my skill in 
sleight of hand : I might practise as a conjuror 
if I liked. Mama says sometimes, too, that 
I have an harmonizing property of tongue and 
eye ; but you never saw that in me — did you 
Lucy ? " 

" Indeed — indeed — when you were a mere boy I 
used to see both : far more then than now — for now 
you are strong, and strength dispenses with sub- 
tlety. But still, Dr. John, you have what they call 
in this country ' un air fin,' that nobody can mis- 
take. Madame Beck saw it, and " 

" And liked it," said he, laughing, " because 
she has it herself. But, Lucy, give me that letter — 
you don't really care for it." 

To this provocative speech I made no answer. 
Graham in mirthful mood must not be humoured 
too far. Just now there was a new sort of smile 
playing about his lips — very sweet, but it grieved 
me somehow — a new sort of light sparkling in his 



172 VILLETTE. 

eyes : not hostile, but not reassuring. I rose to go 
— I bid him good night a little sadly. 

His sensitiveness — that peculiar, apprehensive, 
detective faculty of his — felt in a moment the un- 
spoken complaint — the scarce-thought reproach. 
He asked quietly if I was offended. I shook my 
head as implying a negative. 

" Permit me, then, to speak a little seriously to 
you before you go. You are in a highly nervous 
state. I feel sure from what is apparent in your 
look and manner, however well - controlled, that 
whilst alone this evening in that dismal, perish- 
ing sepulchral garret — that dungeon under the 
leads, smelling of damp and mould, rank with 
pthisis and catarrh : a place you never ought to 
enter — that you saw, or thought you saw, some 
appearance peculiarly calculated to impress the 
imagination. I know you are not, nor ever were, 
subject to material terrors, fears of robbers, &c. — I 
am not so sure that a visitation, bearing a spectral 
character, would not shake your very mind. Be 
calm now. This is all a matter of the nerves, I 
see : but just specify the vision." 

« You will tell nobody?" 



THE LETTER. 173 

" Nobody — most certainly. You may trust me 
as implicitly as you did Pere Silas. Indeed, the 
doctor is perhaps the safer confessor of the two, 
though he has not gray hair." 

" You will not laugh ? " 

" Perhaps I may, to do you good ; but not in 
scorn. Lucy, I feel as a friend towards you, 
though your timid nature is slow to trust." 

He now looked like a friend : that indescribable 
smile and sparkle were gone; those formidable 
arched curves of lip, nostril, eyebrow, were de- 
pressed ; repose marked his attitude — attention 
sobered his aspect. Won to confidence, I told him 
exactly what I had seen : ere now I had narrated 
to him the legend of the house — whiling away with 
that narrative an hour of a certain mild October 
afternoon, when he and I rode through Bois 
l'Etang. 

He sat and thought, and while he thought, we 
heard them all coming down stairs. 

" Are they going to interrupt? " said he, glancing 
at the door with an annoyed expression. 

" They will not come here," I answered ; for we 
were in the little salon where Madame never sat 
in the evening, and where it was by mere chance 



] 74 VILLETTE. 

that heat was still lingering- in the stove. They 
passed the door and went on to the salle-a-manger. 

"Now," he pursued, "they will talk about thieves, 
burglars, and so on : let them do so — mind you 
say nothing, and keep your resolution of describing 
your nun to nobody. She may appear to you 
again : don't start." 

"You think then," I said, with secret horror, 
" she came out of my brain, and is now gone in 
there, and may glide out again at an hour and a 
day when I look not for her ? " 

" I think it a case of spectral illusion : I fear, 
following on and resulting from long-continued 
mental conflict." 

" Oh, Doctor John — I shudder at the thought of 
being liable to such an illusion ! It seemed so real. 
Is there no cure? — no preventive?" 

"Happiness is the cure — a cheerful mind the 
preventive : cultivate both." 

No mockery in this world ever sounds to me so 
hollow as that of being told to cultivate happiness. 
What does such advice mean? Happiness is not a 
potato, to be planted in mould, and tilled with 
manure. Happiness is a glory shining far down 
upon us out of Heaven. She is a divine dew which 



THE LETTER. 175 

the soul, on certain of its summer mornings, feels 
dropping upon it from the amaranth bloom and 
golden fruitage of Paradise. 

"Cultivate happiness!" I said briefly to the 
doctor : " do you cultivate happiness ? How do you 



manage 



?" 



" I am a cheerful fellow by nature : and then 
ill-luck has never dogged me. Adversity gave me 
and my mother one passing scowl and brush, but 
we defied her, or rather laughed at her, and she 
went by." 

" There is no cultivation in all this." 

" I do not give way to melancholy." 

"Yes : I have seen you subdued by that feeling." 

u About Ginevra Fanshawe — eh ? " 

" Did she not sometimes make you miserable ? ' 

"Pooh! stuff! nonsense! You see lam better 



now." 



If a laughing eye with a lively light, and a face 
bright with beaming and healthy energy, could 
attest that he was better, better he certainly was. 

" You do not look much amiss, or greatly out 
of condition," I allowed. 

"And why, Lucy, can't you look and feel as I do 
— buoyant, courageous, and fit to defy all the nuns 



176 VILLETTE. 

and flirts in Christendom ? I would give gold on 
the spot just to see you snap your ringers. Try 
the manoeuvre." 

" If I were to bring Miss Fanshawe into your 
presence just now?" 

" I vow, Lucy, she should not move me : or, she 
should move me but by one thing — true, yes, 
and passionate love. I would accord forgiveness at 
no less a price." 

" Indeed ! a smile of hers would have been a 
fortune to you a while since." 

" Transformed,Lucy : transformed ! Remember, you 
once called me a slave! but I am a free man now ! ' 
He stood up : in the port of his head, the carriage 
of his figure, in his beaming eye and mien, there 
revealed itself a liberty which was more than ease 
— a mood which was disdain of his past bondage. 

" Miss Fanshawe," he pursued, " has led me 
through a phase of feeling which is over : I have 
entered another condition, and am now much dis- 
posed to exact love for love — passion for passion — 
and good measure of it too." 

" Ah, Doctor ! Doctor ! you said it was your 
nature to pursue Love under difficulties— to be 
charmed by a proud insensibility ! " 



THE LETTER. 177 

He laughed, and answered, " My nature varies : 
the mood of one hour is sometimes the mockery of 
the next. Well, Lucy " (drawing- on his gloves), 
" will the Nun come again to-night, think you ? ' 

" I don't think she will." 

" Give her my compliments, if she does — Dr. 
John's compliments — and entreat her to have the 
goodness to wait a visit from him. Lucy, was she 
a pretty nun? Had she a pretty face? You have 
not told me that yet ; and that is the really im- 
portant point." 

" She had a white cloth over her face," said I, 
" but her eyes glittered." 

"Confusion to her goblin trappings!" cried he, 
irreverently : " but at least she had handsome eyes — 
bright and soft." 

li Cold and fixed," was my reply. 

" No, no, we'll none of her: she shall not haunt 
yon, Lucy. Give her that shake of the hand, if she 
comes again. Will she stand that, do you think?" 

" I thought it too kind and cordial for a ghost to 
stand ; and so was the smile which matched it, and 
accompanied his ' Good night.' " 



VOL. II. n 



178 VILLETTE. 

And had there been anything in the garret? 
What did they discover ? I believe, on the closest 
examination, their discoveries amounted to very 
little. They talked, at first, of the cloaks being 
disturbed ; but Madame Beck told me afterwards 
she thought they hung much as usual : and as for 
the broken pane in the skylight, she affirmed that 
aperture was rarely without one or more panes 
broken or cracked : and besides, a heavy hail-storm 
had fallen a few days ago. Madame questioned me 
very closely as to what I had seen, but I only 
described an obscure figure clothed in black : I took 
care not to breathe the word " nun," certain that 
this word would at once suggest to her mind an 
idea of romance and unreality. She charged me to 
say nothing on the subject to any servant, pupil, or 
teacher, and highly commended my discretion in 
coming to her private salle-a-manger, instead of 
carrying the tale of horror to the school refectory. 
Thus the subject dropped. I was left secretly and 
sadly to wonder, in my own mind, whether that 
strange thing was of this world, or of a realm be- 
yond the grave ; or whether indeed it was only the 
child of maladv, and I of that malady the prey. 



VASHTI. 



179 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

VASHTI. 

To wonder sadly, did I say ? No: a new influence 
began to act upon my life, and sadness, for a certain 
space, was held at bay. Conceive a dell, deep- 
hollowed in forest secresy ; it lies in dimness and 
mist : its turf is dank, its herbage pale and humid. 
A storm or an axe makes a wide gap amongst the 
oak-trees ; the breeze sweeps in ; the sun looks 
down ; the sad, cold dell, becomes a deep cup of 
lustre ; high summer pours her blue glory and her 
golden light out of that beauteous sky, which till 
now the starved hollow never saw. 

A new creed became mine — a belief in happiness. 

It was three weeks since the adventure of the 
garret, and I possessed in that case, box, drawer up 
stairs, casketed with that first letter, four com- 
panions like to it, traced by the same firm pen, 



180 VILLETTE. 

sealed with the same clear seal, full of the same 
vital comfort. Vital comfort it seemed to me then : 
I read them in after years ; they were kind letters 
enough — pleasing letters, because composed by one 
well-pleased ; in the two last there were three or 
four closing lines half-gay, half-tender, " by feeling 
touched, but not subdued." Time, dear reader, mel- 
lowed them to a beverage of this mild quality ; but 
when I first tasted their elixir, fresh from the fount 
so honoured, it seemed juice of a divine vintage : a 
draught which Hebe might fill, and the very gods 
approve. 

Does the reader, remembering what was said 
some pages back, care to ask how I answered these 
letters : whether under the dry, stinting check of 
Reason, or according to the full, liberal impulse of 
Feeling? 

To speak truth, I compromised matters ; I served 
two masters : I bowed down in the house of Rhn- 
mon, and lifted the heart at another shrine. I 
wrote to these letters two answers — one for my own 
relief, the other for Graham's perusal. 

To begin with : Feeling and I turned Reason out 
of doors, drew against her bar and bolt, then we sat 
down, spread our paper, dipped in the ink an eager 



VASHTI. 181 

pen, and, with deep enjoyment, poured, out our .sin- 
cere heart. When we had done — when two sheets 
were covered with the language of a strongly-ad- 
herent affection, a rooted and active gratitude — (once, 
for all, in this parenthesis, I disclaim, with the utmost 
scorn, every sneaking suspicion of what are called 
" warmer feelings :" women do not entertain these 
" warmer feelings" where, from the commencement, 
through the whole progress of an acquaintance, they 
have never once been cheated of the conviction that 
to do so would be to commit a mortal absurdity : 
nobody ever launches into Love unless he has seen 
or dreamed the rising of Hope's star over Love's 
troubled waters) — when, then, I had given expression 
to a closely-clinging and deeply-honouring attach- 
ment — an attachment that wanted to attract to itself 
and take into its own lot all that was painful in the 
destiny of its object ; that would, if it could, have 
absorbed and conducted away all storms and light- 
nings from an existence viewed with a passion of 
solicitude — then, just at that moment, the doors 
of my heart would shake, bolt and bar would 
yield, Reason would leap in, vigorous and re- 
vengeful, snatch the full sheets, read, sneer, 
erase, tear up, re-write, fold;, seal, direct, and 



182 VILLETTE. 

send a terse, curt missive of a page. She did 
right. 

I did not live on letters only : I was visited, I was 
looked after ; once a week I was taken out to La 
Terrasse ; always I was made much of. Dr. Bretton 
failed not to tell me why he was so kind : " To keep 
away the nun," he said; "he was determined to 
dispute with her her prey. He had taken," he 
declared, " a thorough dislike to her, chiefly on ac- 
count of that white face- cloth, and those cold gray 
eyes : the moment he heard of those odious parti- 
culars," he affirmed, " consummate disgust had in- 
cited him to oppose her ; he was determined to try 
whether he or she was the cleverest, and he only 
wished she would once more look in upon me when 
he was present : " but that she never did. In short, 
he regarded me scientifically in the light of a patient, 
and at once exercised his professional skill, and gra- 
tified his natural benevolence, by a course of cordial 
and attentive treatment. 

One evening, the first in December, I was walk- 
ing by myself in the carre ; it was six o'clock ; the 
elasse-doors were closed ; but within, the pupils, 
rampant in the license of evening recreation, were 
counterfeiting a miniature chaos. The carre was 



VASHTI. 183 

quite dark, except a red light shining under and 
about the stove ; the wide glass- doors and the long- 
windows were frosted over ; a crystal sparkle of 
starlight, here and there spangling this blanched 
winter veil, and breaking with scattered brilliants 
the paleness of its embroidery, proved it a clear 
night, though moonless. That I should dare to re- 
main thus alone in darkness, showed that my nerves 
were regaining a healthy tone : I thought of the 
nun, but hardly feared her; though the staircase 
was behind me, leading up, through blind, black 
night, from landing to landing, to the haunted 
grenier. Yet I own my heart quaked, my pulse 
leaped, when I suddenly heard breathing and rust- 
ling, and turning, saw in the deep shadow of the 
steps a deeper shadow still — a shape that moved and 
descended. It paused a while at the classe door, 
and then it glided before me. Simultaneously came 
a clangor of the distant door-bell. Life-like sounds 
bring life-like feelings : this shape was too round 
and low for my gaunt nun : it was only Madame 
Beck on duty. 

" Mademoiselle Lucy ! " cried Rosine, bursting 
in, lamp in hand, from the corridor, " On est Ki 
pour vous au salon." 



184 VILLETTE. 

Madame saw me, I saw Madame, Rosine saw us 
both : there was no mutual recognition. I made 
straight for the salon. There I found what I own 
I anticipated I should find — Dr. Bretton ; but he 
was in evening-dress. 

" The carriage is at the door," said he ; " my 
mother has sent it to take you to tlje theatre ; she 
was going herself but an arrival has prevented her : 
she immediately said, 'Take Lucy in my place.' 
Will you go?" 

" Just now ? I am not dressed," cried I, glancing 
despairingly at my dark merino. 

"You have half an hour to dress. I should have 
given you notice, but I only determined on going* 
since five o'clock, when I heard there was to be a 
genuine regale in the presence of a great actress." 

And he mentioned a name that thrilled me — a 
name that, in those days, could thrill Europe. It 
is hushed now : its once restless echoes are all still; 
she who bore it went years ago to her rest : night 
and oblivion long since closed above her ; but then 
her day — a day of Sirius — stood at its full height, 
light and fervour. 

" I '11 go ; I will be ready in ten minutes," I 
vowed. And away I flew, never once checked, 



VASHTI. 185 

reader, by the thought which perhaps at "this "mo- 
ment checks you : namely that to go anywhere with 
Graham and without Mrs. Bretton could be objec- 
tionable. I could not have conceived, much less have 
expressed, to Graham such thought — such scruple — 
without risk of exciting a tyrannous self-contempt ; 
of kindling an inward fire of shame so quenchless, 
and so devouring, that I think it would soon have 
licked up the very life in my veins. Besides, my 
godmother, knowing her son, and knowing me, 
would as soon have thought of chaperoning a sister 
with a brother, as of keeping anxious guard over 
our incomings and outgoings. 

The present was no occasion for showy array ; my 
dun-mist crape would suffice, and I sought the same 
in the great oak-wardrobe in the dormitory, where 
hung no less than forty dresses. But there had. 
been changes and reforms, and some innovating 
hand had pruned this same crowded wardrobe, and 
carried divers garments to the grenier — my crape 
amongst the rest. I must fetch it. I got the key, 
and went aloft fearless, almost thoughtless. I un- 
locked the door, I plunged in. The reader may 
believe it or not, but when I thus suddenly entered, 
that garret was not wholly dark as it should have 



186 VILLETTE. 

been : from one point there shone a solemn light, 
like a star, but broader. So plainly it shone, that 
it revealed the deep alcove with a portion of the 
tarnished scarlet curtain drawn over it. Instantly, 
silently, before my eyes, it vanished ; so did the 
curtain and alcove : all that end of the garret 
became black as night. I ventured no research ; 
I had not time nor will ; snatching my dress, which 
hung on the wall, happily near the door, I rushed 
out, relocked the door with convulsed haste, and 
darted downwards to the dormitory. 

But I trembled too much to dress myself: im- 
possible to arrange hair or fasten hooks-and-eyes 
with such fingers, so I called Xtosine and bribed 
her to help me. Rosine liked a bribe, so she did 
her best, smoothed and plaited my hair as well as 
a coiffeur would have done, placed the lace collar 
mathematically straight, tied the neck-ribbon ac- 
curately — in short, did her work like the neat- 
handed Phillis she could be when she chose. Hav- 
ing given me my handkerchief and gloves, she took 
the candle and lighted me down stairs. After all, 
I had forgotten my shawl ; she ran back to fetch 
it ; and I stood with Dr. John in the vestibule* 
waiting. 



VASHTI. 187 

" What is this, Lucy ? " said he, looking down 
at me narrowly. " Here is the old excitement. 
Ha ! tlie nun a^ain ? " 

But I utterly denied the charge : I was vexed 
to be suspected of a second illusion. He was 
sceptical. 

" She has been, as sure as I live," said he ; " her 
figure crossing your eyes leaves on them a peculiar 
gleam and expression not to be mistaken." 

le She has not been," I persisted: for, indeed, I 
could deny her apparition with truth. 

" The old symptoms are there," he affirmed ; " a 
particular pale, and what the Scotch call a ' raised' 
look." 

He was so obstinate, I thought it better to tell 
him what I really had seen. Of course with him, it 
was held to be another effect of the same cause : 
it was all optical illusion — nervous malady, and so 
on. Not one bit did I believe him ; but I dared 
not contradict : doctors are so self-opinionated, so 
immovable in their dry, materialist views. 

Rosine brought the shawl, and I was bundled 
into the carriage. 



188 VILLETTE. 

The theatre was full — crammed to its roof : 
royal and noble were there ; palace and hotel had 
emptied their inmates into those tiers so thronged 
and so hushed. Deeply did I feel myself privi- 
leged in having a place before that stage ; I longed 
to see a being of whose powers I had heard reports 
which made me conceive peculiar anticipations. I 
wondered if she would justify her renown: with 
strange curiosity, with feelings severe and austere, 
yet of riveted interest, I waited. She was a study 
of such nature as had not encountered my eyes 
yet : a great and new planet she was : but in what 
shape ? I waited her rising. 

She rose at nine that December night : above 
the horizon I saw her come. She could shine yet 
with pale grandeur and steady might; but that star 
verged already on its judgment-day. Seen near, 
it was a chaos — hollow, half-consumed : an orb 
perished or perishing — half lava, half glow. 

I had heard this woman termed " plain," and I 
expected bony harshness and grimness — something 
large, angular, sallow. What I saw was the shadow 
of a royal Vashti : a queen, fair as the day once, 
turned pale now like twilight, and wasted like wax 
in flame. 



VASHTI. 189 

For awhile — a long* while — I thought it was only 
a woman, though an unique woman, who moved 
in might and grace before this multitude. By-and- 
by I recognized my mistake. Behold ! I found 
upon her something neither of woman nor of man : 
in each of her eyes sat a devil. These evil forces 
bore her through the tragedy, kept up her feeble 
strength — for she was but a frail creature ; and as 
the action rose and the stir deepened, how wildly 
they shook her with their passions of the pit ! 
They wrote hell on her straight, haughty brow. 
They tuned her voice to the note of torment. They 
writhed her regal face to a demoniac mask. Hate 
and Murder and Madness incarnate, she stood. 

It was a marvellous "sight : a mighty revelation. 

It was a spectacle low, horrible, immoral. 

Swordsmen thrust through, and dying in their 
blood on the arena sand ; bulls goring horses dis- 
embowelled, make a meeker vision for the public 
— a milder condiment for a people's palate — than 
Vashti torn by seven devils : devils which cried 
sore and rent the tenement they haunted, but 
still refused to be exorcised. 

Suffering had struck that stage empress ; and she 
stood before her audience neither yielding to, nor 



190 VILLETTE. 

enduring, nor in finite measure, resenting it : she 
stood locked in struggle, rigid in resistance. She 
stood, not dressed, but draped in pale antique folds, 
long and regular like sculpture. A background 
and entourage and flooring of deepest crimson 
threw her out, white like alabaster — like silver : 
rather be it said, like Death. 

Where was the artist of the Cleopatra ? Let 
him come and sit down and study this different 
vision. Let him seek here the mighty brawn, 
the muscle, the abounding blood, the fall-fed flesh 
he worshipped : let all materialists draw nigh and 
look on. 

I have said that she does not resent her grief. 
No ; the weakness of that word would make it a 
lie. To her, what hurts becomes immediately em- 
bodied : she looks on it as a thing that can be 
attacked, worried down, torn in shreds. Scarcely 
a substance herself, she grapples to conflict with 
abstractions. Before calamity she is a tigress ; she 
rends her woes, shivers them in convulsed abhor- 
rence. Pain, for her, has no result in good ; tears 
water no harvest of wisdom : on sickness, on death 
itself, she looks with the eye of a rebel. Wicked, 
perhaps, she is, but also she is strong ; and^her 



VASHTI. 191 

strength has conquered Beauty, has overcome 
Grace, and bound both at her side, captives peer- 
lessly fair, and docile as fair. Even in the uttermost 
frenzy of energy is each maenad movement royally, 
imperially, incedingly upborne. Her hair, flying- 
loose in revel or war, is still an angel's hair, and 
glorious under a halo. Fallen, insurgent, banished, 
she remembers the heaven where she rebelled. 
Heaven's light, following her exile, pierces its con- 
fines, and discloses their forlorn remoteness. 

Place now the Cleopatra, or any other slug, 
before her as an obstacle, and see her cut through 
the pulpy mass as the scimitar of Saladin clove the 
down cushion. Let Paul Peter Rubens wake from 
the dead, let him rise out of his cerements, and 
bring into this presence all the army of his fat 
women ; the magian power or prophet-virtue gift- 
ing that slight rod of Moses, could, at one waft, 
release and re-mingle a sea spell-parted, whelming 
the heavy host with the down-rush of overthrown 
sea-ramparts. 

Vashti was not good, I was told ; and I have said 
she did not look good : though a spirit, she was a 
spirit out of Tophet. Well, if so much of unholy 
force can arise from below, may not an equal 



192 VILLETTE. 

efflux of sacred essence descend one day from 
above ? 

What thought Dr. Graham of this being ? 

For long intervals I forgot to look how he de- 
meaned himself, or to question what he thought. 
The strong magnetism of genius drew my heart 
out of its wonted orbit ; the sunflower turned from 
the south to a fierce light, not solar — a rushing, 
red, cometary light — hot on vision and to sensation. 
I had seen acting before, but never anything like 
this : never anything which astonished Hope and 
hushed Desire ; which outstripped Impulse and 
paled Conception ; which, instead of merely irri- 
tating imagination with the thought of what 
might be done, at the same time fevering the 
nerves because it was not done, disclosed power 
like a deep, swollen, winter river, thundering in 
cataract, and bearing the soul, like a leaf, on the 
steep and steely sweep of its descent. 

Miss Fanshawe, with her usual ripeness of judg- 
ment, pronounced Dr. Bretton a serious, impas- 
sioned man, too grave and too impressible. Not in 
such light did I ever see him: no such faults could 
I lay to his charge. His natural attitude was not 
the meditative, nor his natural mood the senti- 



VASHTI. 193 

mental ; impressionable he was as dimpling water, but, 
almost as water, uuimpressible : the breeze, the sun, 
moved him — metal could not grave, nor fire brand. 
Dr. John could think, and think well, but he was 
rather a man of action than of thought ; he could 
feel, and feel vividly in his way, but his heart had 
no chord for enthusiasm : to bright, soft, sweet in- 
fluences his eyes and lips gave bright, soft, sweet 
welcome, beautiful to see as dyes of rose and silver, 
pearl and purple, embuing summer clouds ; for 
what belonged to storm, what was wild and intense, 
dangerous, sudden, and flaming, he had no sym- 
pathy, and held with it no communion. When I 
took time and regained inclination to glance at him, 
it amused and enlightened me to discover that he 
was watching that sinister and sovereign Vashti, 
not with wonder, nor worship, nor yet dismay, 
but simply with intense curiosity. Her agony did 
not pain him, her wild moan — worse than a shriek 
— did not much move him ; her fury revolted him 
somewhat, but not to the point of horror. Cool 
young Briton ! The pale cliffs of his own England 
do not look down on the tides of the channel more 
calmly than he watched the Pythian inspiration of 
that night. 

VOL. II. O 



194 VILLETTE. 

Looking at his face, I longed to know his exact 
opinions, and at last I put a question tending to 
elicit thern. At the sound of my voice he awoke 
as if out of a dream ; for he had been thinking, 
and very intently thinking, his own thoughts, after 
his own manner. " How did he like Vashti 1 " I 
wished to know. 

" Hin-m-m," was the first scarce articulate but 
expressive answer ; and then such a strange smile 
went wandering round his lips, a smile so critical, 
so almost callous ! I suppose that for natures of 
that order his sympathies ivere callous. In a few 
terse phrases he told me his opinion of, and feeling 
towards, the actress : he judged her as a woman, 
not an artist : it was a branding judgment. 

That night was already marked in my book of 
life, not with white, but with a deep-red cross. But 
I had not done with it yet ; and other memoranda 
were destined to be set down in characters of tint 
indelible. 

Towards midnight, when the deepening tragedy 
blackened to the death scene, and all held their 
breath, and even Graham bit in his under lip, and 
knit his brow, and sat still and struck — when the 
whole theatre was hushed, when the vision of all 



VASHTI. 195 

eyes centred in one point, when all ears listened 
towards one quarter — nothing being* seen but the 
white form sunk on a seat, quivering in conflict 
with her last, her worst-hated, her visibly-conquer- 
ing foe — nothing heard but her throes, her gasp- 
ings, breathing yet of mutiny, panting still defiance : 
when, as it seemed, an inordinate will, convulsing 
a perishing mortal frame, bent it to battle with 
doom and death, fought every inch of ground, sold 
dear every drop of blood, resisted to the latest 
the rape of every faculty, would see, would hear, 
would breathe, would live, up to, within, well nigh 
leyond the moment when death says to all sense 
and all being — 

H Thus far and no farther ! " 

Just then a stir, pregnant with omen, rustled 
behind the scenes — feet ran, voices spoke. What 
was it ? demanded the whole house. A flame, a 
smell of smoke replied. 

" Fire ! " rang through the gallery. rt Fire ! " was 
repeated, re-echoed, yelled forth : and then, and 
faster than pen can set it down, came panic, rushing, 
crushing — a blind, selfish, cruel chaos. 

And Dr. John ? Reader, I see him yet, with his 
look of comely courage and cordial calm. 



196 VILLETTE. 

" Lucy will sit still, I know," said he, glancing 
down at me with the same serene goodness, the 
same repose of firmness that I have seen in him 
when sitting at his side amid the secure peace of 
his mother's hearth. Yes, thus adjured, I think I 
would have sat still under a rocking crag : but, 
indeed, to sit still in actual circumstances was my 
instinct ; and at the price of my very life, I would 
not have moved to give him trouble, thwart his 
will, or make demands on his attention. We were 
in the stalls, and for a few minutes there was a 
most terrible, ruthless pressure about us. 

" How terrified are the women ! " said he ; " but 
if the men were not almost equally so, order might 
be maintained. This is a sorry scene: I see fifty 
selfish brutes at this moment, each of whom, if I 
were near, I could conscientiously knock down. 
I see some women braver than some men. There 
is one yonder — Good God !" 

While Graham was speaking, a young girl who 
had been very quietly and steadily clinging to a 
gentleman standing before us, was suddenly struck 
from her protector's arms by a big, butcherly in- 
truder, and hurled under the feet of the crowd. 
Scarce two seconds lasted her disappearance. Gra- 



VASHTI. 197 

ham rushed forwards; he and the gentleman, a 
powerful man though gray-haired, united their 
strength to thrust back the throng ; her head and 
long hair fell back over his shoulder : she seemed 
unconscious. 

" Trust her with me ; I am a medical man," said 
Dr. John. 

" If you have no lady with you, be it so," was the 
answer. " Hold her, and I will force a passage : 
we must get her to the air." 

" I have a lady," said Graham, " but she will be 
neither hindrance nor incumbrance." 

He summoned me with his eye : we were sepa- 
rated. Resolute, however, to rejoin him, I pene- 
trated the living barrier, creeping under, where I 
could not get between or over. 

" Fasten on me, and don't leave go," he said ; and 
I obeyed him. 

, Our pioneer proved strong and adroit ; he opened 
the dense mass like a wedge ; with patience and toil 
he at last bored through the flesh-and-blood rock — ■ 
so solid, hot, and suffocating — and brought us to 
the fresh, freezing night. 

"You are an Englishman!" said he, turning 
shortly on Dr. Bretton, when we got into the street. 



198 VILLETTE. 

" An Englishman. And I sj)eak to a country- 
man?" was the reply. 

" Right. Be good enough to stand here two 
minutes, whilst I find my carriage." 

" Papa, I am not hurt," said a girlish voice, 
" am I with papa?" 

"You are with a friend, and your father is close 
at hand." 

" Tell him I am not hurt, except just in my 
shoulder. Oh, my shoulder! They trode just 
here." 

" Dislocation, perhaps ! " muttered the Doctor : 
"let us hope there is no worse injury done. Lucy, 
lend a hand one instant." 

And I assisted while he made some arrangement 
of drapery and position for the ease of his suffering 
burden. She suppressed a moan, and lay in his 
arms quietly and patiently. 

" She is very light," said Graham, " like a child !" 
and he asked in my ear, " Is she a child, Lucy ? 
Did you notice her age ? " 

" I am not a child — I am a person of seventeen," 
responded the patient demurely and with dignity. 
Then, directly after : 

" Tell papa to come ; I get anxious." 



VASHTI. 199 

The carriage drove up ; her father relieved Gra- 
ham ; hut in the exchange from one hearer to 
another she was hurt, and moaned again. 

"My darling!" said the father tenderly; then 
turning to Graham, " You said, sir, you are a 
medical man ?" 

" I am : Dr. Bretton, of La Terrasse." 

" Good. Will you step into my carriage 1 ' 

" My own carriage is here : I will seek it, and 
accompany you." 

" Be pleased, then, to follow us." And he named 
his address : " The Hotel Crecy, in the Rue Crecy." 

We followed ; the carriage drove fast ; myself 
and Graham were silent. This seemed like an ad- 
venture. 

Some little time being lost in seeking our own 
equipage, we reached the hotel, perhaps, about ten 
minutes after these strangers. It was an hotel in 
the foreign sense : a collection of dwelling-houses, 
not an inn — a vast, lofty pile, with a huge arch to 
its street-door, leading through a vaulted covered 
way, into a square all built round. 

We alighted, passed up a wide, handsome public 
staircase, and stopped at Numcro 2 on the second 
landing ; the first floor comprising the abode of I 



200 VILLETTE. 

know not what " prince Russe," as Graham informed 
me. On ringing the bell at a second great door, we 
were admitted to a suite of very handsome apart- 
ments. Announced by a servant in livery, we en- 
tered a drawing-room whose hearth glowed with an 
English fire, and whose walls gleamed with foreign 
mirrors. Near the hearth appeared a little group ; 
a slight form sunk in a deep arm-chair, one or two 
women busy about it, the iron-gray gentleman 
anxiously looking on. 

" Where is Harriet 1 I wish Harriet would come 
to me," said the girlish voice, faintly. 

" Where is Mrs. Hurst ?" demanded the gentle- 
man impatiently and somewhat sternly of the man- 
servant who had admitted us. 

" I am sorry to say she is gone out of town, sir ; 
my young lady gave her leave till to-morrow." 

"Yes — I did— I did. She is gone to see her 
sister; I said she might go: I remember now," in- 
terposed the young lady ; " but I am so sorry, for 
Manon and Louison cannot understand a word I say, 
and they hurt me without meaning to do so." 

Dr. John and the gentleman now interchanged 
greetings ; and while they passed a few minutes in 
consultation, I approached the easy-chair, and see- 



VASHTI. 



201 



ing what the faint and sinking- girl wished to have 
done, I did it for her. 

I was still occupied in the arrangement, when 
Graham drew near ; he was no less skilled in sur- 
gery than medicine, and, on examination, found that 
no further advice than his own was necessary to the 
treatment of the present case. He ordered her to 
be carried to her chamber, and whispered to me : — 

" Go with the women, Lucy ; they seem but dull ; 
you can at least direct their movements, and thus 
spare her some pain. She must be touched very 
tenderly." 

The chamber was a room shadowy with pale-blue 
hangings, vaporous with curtainings and veilings of 
muslin ; the bed seemed to me like snow-drift and 
mist — spotless, soft, and gauzy. Making the women 
stand apart, I undressed their mistress, without their 
well-meaning but clumsy aid. I was not in a suf- 
ficiently collected mood to note with separate distinct- 
ness every detail of the attire I removed, but I 
received a general impression of refinement, delicacy, 
and perfect personal cultivation ; which, in a period 
of after-thought, offered in my reflections a singular 
contrast to notes retained of Miss Ginevra Fan- 
shawe's appointments. 



202 VILLETTE. 

This girl was herself a small, delicate creature, 
but made like a model. As I folded back her plen- 
tiful yet line hair, so shining and soft, and so 
exquisitely tended, I had under my observation a 
young, pale, weary, but high-bred face. The brow 
was smooth and clear ; the eyebrows were distinct, 
but soft, and melting to a mere trace at the temples; 
the eyes were a rich gift of nature — fine and full, 
large, deep, seeming to hold dominion over the 
slighter subordinate features — capable, probably, of 
much significance at another hour and under other 
circumstances than the present, but now languid and 
suffering. Her skin was perfectly fair, the neck 
and hands veined finely like the petals of a flower; 
a thin glazing of the ice of pride, polished this deli- 
cate exterior, and her lip wore a curl — I doubt not 
inherent and unconscious, but which, if I had seen 
it first with the accompaniments of health and state, 
would have struck me as unwarranted, and proving 
in the little lady a quite mistaken view of life and 
her own consequence. 

Her demeanour under the Doctor's hands at first 
excited a smile : it was not puerile — rather, on the 
whole, patient and firm — but yet, once or twice she 
addressed him with suddenness and sharpness, say- 



VASHTI. 203 

ing that he hurt her, and must contrive to give her 
less pain ; I saw her large eyes, too, settle on his 
face like the solemn eyes of some pretty, wondering 
child. I know not whether Graham felt this ex- 
amination : if he did, he was cautious not to check or 
discomfit it by any retaliatory look. I think he per- 
formed his work with extreme care and gentleness, 
sparing her what pain he could ; and she acknow- 
ledged as much, when he had done, by the words : — 

" Thank you, Doctor, and good night," very 
gratefully pronounced : as she uttered them, how- 
ever, it was with a repetition of the serious, direct 
gaze, I thought, peculiar in its gravity and intent- 
ness 

The injuries, it seems, were not dangerous : an 
assurance which her father received with a smile 
that almost made one his friend — it was so glad and 
gratified. He now expressed his obligations to 
Graham with as much earnestness as was befitting 
an Englishman addressing one who has served him, 
but is yet a stranger ; he also begged him to call 
the next day. 

" Papa," said a voice from the veiled couch, 
" thank the lady, too : is she there? " 

I opened the curtain with a smile, and looked in 



204 VILLETTE. 

at her. She lay now at comparative ease ; she 
looked pretty, though pale ; her face was delicately 
designed, and if at first sight it appeared proud, I 
believe custom might prove it to be soft. 

" I thank the lady very sincerely," said her father : 
" I fancy she has been very good to my child. I 
think we scarcely dare tell Mrs. Hurst who has 
been her substitute and done her work ; she will 
feel at once ashamed and jealous.'* 

And thus, in the most friendly spirit, parting 
greetings were interchanged; and refreshment having 
been hospitably offered, but by us, as it was late, 
refused, we withdrew from the Hotel Crecy. 

On our way back we repassed the theatre. All 
was silence and darkness : the roaring, rushing 
crowd all vanished and gone — the lamps, as well as 
the incipient fire, extinct and forgotten. Next 
morning's papers explained that it was but some 
loose drapery on which a spark had fallen, and 
which had blazed up and been quenched in a 
moment. 



M. DE BASSOMPIEERE. 205 



CHAPTER XXV. 

M. DE BASSOMPIEREE. 

Those who live in retirement, whose lives have 
fallen amid the seclusion of schools or of other 
walled-in and guarded dwellings, are liable to be 
suddenly and for a long while dropped out of the 
memory of their friends, the denizens of a freer 
world. Unaccountably, perhaps, and close upon 
some space of unusually frequent intercourse — some 
congeries of rather exciting little circumstances, 
whose natural sequel would rather seem to be the 
quickening than the suspension of communication — 
there falls a stilly pause, a wordless silence, a long 
blank of oblivion. Unbroken always is this blank ; 
alike entire and unexplained. The letter, the mes- 
sage once frequent, are cut off; the visit, formerly 
periodical, ceases to occur ; the book, paper, or 



206 VILLETTE. 

other token that indicated remembrance, comes no 
more. 

Always there are excellent reasons for these 
lapses, if the hermit but knew them. Though he is 
stagnant in his cell, his connections without are whirl- 
ing in the very vortex of life. That void interval 
which passes for him so slowly that the very clocks 
seem at a stand, and the wingless hours plod by 
in the likeness of tired tramps prone to rest at 
milestones — that same interval, perhaps, teems with 
events, and pants with hurry for his friends. 

The hermit — if he be a sensible hermit — will 
swallow his own thoughts, and lock up his own 
emotions during these weeks of inward winter. He 
will know that Destiny designed him to imitate, on 
occasion, the dormouse, and he will be conformable : 
make a tidy ball of himself, creep into a hole of life's 
wall, and submit decently to the drift which blows 
in and soon blocks him up, preserving him in ice 
for the season. 

Let him say, " It is quite right : it ought to be 
so, since so it is." And, perhaps, one day his snow- 
sepulchre will open, spring's softness will return, 
the sun and south-wind will reach him ; the budding 
of hedges, and carolling of birds and singing of 



M. DE BASSOMPIEREE. 207 

liberated streams will call him to kindly resurrec- 
tion. Perhaps this may be the case, perhaps not : 
the frost may get into his heart and never thaw 
more ; when spring comes, a crow or a pie may pick 
out of the wall only his dormouse-bones. "Well, 
even in that case, all will be right : it is to be sup- 
posed he knew from the first he was mortal, and 
must one day go the way of all flesh, " As well soon 
as syne." 

Following that eventful evening at the theatre, 
came for me seven weeks as bare as seven sheets of 
blank paper : no word was written on one of them ; 
not a visit, not a token. 

About the middle of that time I entertained fan- 
cies that something had happened to my friends 
at La Terrasse. The mid-blank is always a be- 
clouded point for the solitary : his nerves ache with 
the strain of long expectancy ; the doubts hitherto 
repelled gather now to a mass and — strong in accu- 
mulation — roll back upon him with a force which 
savours of vindictiveness. Night, too, becomes an 
unkindly time, and sleep and his nature cannot 
agree : strange starts and struggles harass his 
couch ; the sinister band of bad dreams, with horror 
of calamity, and sick dread of entire desertion at 



208 VILLETTE. 

their head, join the league against him. Poor 
wretch! He does his best to bear up, but he 
is a poor, pallid, wasting wretch, despite that 
best. 

Towards the last of those long seven weeks I 
admitted, what through the other six I had jealously 
excluded — the conviction that these blanks were 
inevitable : the result of circumstances, the fiat of 
fate, a part of my life's lot, and — above all — a matter 
about whose origin no question must ever be asked, for 
whose painful sequence no murmur ever uttered. Of 
course I did not blame myself for suffering : I thank 
God I had a truer sense of justice than to Ml into 
any imbecile extravagances of self-accusation ; and 
as to blaming others for silence, in my reason I well 
knew them blameless, and in my heart acknow- 
ledged them so : but it was a rough and heavy road 
to travel, and I longed for better days. 

I tried different expedients to sustain and fill 
existence : I commenced an elaborate piece of lace- 
work, I studied German pretty hard, I undertook 
a course of regular reading of the driest and thickest 
books in the library ; in all my efforts I was as 
orthodox as I knew how to be. Was there error 
somewhere ? Very likely. I only know the result 



M. DE BASSOMPIERRE. 209 

was as if I had gnawed a file to satisfy hunger, or 
drank brine to quench thirst. 

My hour of torment was the post-hour. Unfor- 
tunately I knew it too well, and tried as vainly as 
assiduously to cheat myself of that knowledge; 
dreading the rack of expectation, and the sick col- 
lapse of disappointment which daily preceded and 
followed upon that well-recognized ring. 

I suppose animals kept in cages, and so scantily 
fed as to be always upon the verge of famine, 
await their food as I awaited a letter. Oh! — to 
speak truth, and drop that tone of a false calm 
which long to sustain, outwears nature's endurance. 
— I underwent in those seven weeks bitter fears and 
pains, strange inward trials, miserable defections of 
hope, intolerable encroachments of despair. This 
last came so near me sometimes that her breath 
went right through me. I used to feel it, like a 
baleful air or sigh, penetrate deep, and make motion 
pause at my heart, or proceed only under unspeak- 
able oppression. The letter — the well-beloved let- 
ter — would not come ; and it was all of sweetness in 
life I had to look for. 

In the very extremity of want, I had recourse 
again, and yet again, to the little packet in the case 

YOL. II. p 



210 VILLETTE. 

— the five letters. How splendid that month seemed 
whose skies had beheld the rising of these five 
stars ! It was always at night I visited them, and 
not daring to ask every evening for a candle in the 
kitchen, I bought a wax-taper and matches to light 
it, and at the study-hour stole up to the dormitory, 
and feasted on my crust from the Barmecide's loaf. 
It did not nourish me: I pined on it, and got as 
thin as a shadow : otherwise I was not ill. 

Heading there somewhat late one evening, and 
feeling that the power to read was leaving me — for 
the letters from incessant perusal were losing all 
sap and significance: my gold was withering to 
leaves before my eyes, and I was sorrowing over 
the disillusion — suddenly a quick tripping foot ran 
up the stairs. I knew Ginevra Fanshawe's step: 
she had dined in town that afternoon ; she was now 
returned, and would come here to replace her shawl, 
&c, in the wardrobe. 

Yes : in she came, dressed in bright silk, with 
her shawl falling from her shoulders, and her curls, 
half-uncurled in the damp of night, drooping care- 
less and heavy upon her neck. I had hardly time 
to recasket my treasures and lock them up when she 
was at my side : her humour seemed none of the best. 



M. DE BASSOMPIERRE. 211 

" It has been a stupid evening : they are stupid 
people/' she began. 

" Who ? Mrs. Cholmondeley ? I thought you 
always found her house charming." 

ff I have not been to Mrs. Cholmondeley's.' , 

" Indeed ! Have you made new acquaintance ? " 

(i My uncle de Bassompierre is come." 

" Your uncle de Bassompierre ! Are you not 
glad ? — I thought he was a favourite." 

" You thought wrong : the man is odious ; I 
hate him." 

" Because he is a foreigner ? or for what other 
reason of equal weight ? " 

" He is not a foreigner. The man is English 
enough, goodness knows ; and had an English name 
till three or four years ago ; but his mother was 
a foreigner, a de Bassompierre, and some of her 
family are dead and have left him estates, a title, 
and this name : he is quite a great man now." 

et Do you hate him for that reason ? " 

" Don't I- know what mama says about him ? He 
is not my own uncle, but married mama's sister. 
Mama detests him ; she savs he killed aunt Ginevra 
with unkindness: he looks like a bear. Such a 
dismal evening ! " she went on. "I'll go no more 



212 VILLETTE. 

to his big hotel. Fancy me walking into a room 
alone, and a great man fifty years old coming for- 
wards, and after a few minutes' conversation ac- 
tually turning his back upon me, and then abruptly 
going out of the room. Such odd ways ! I dare- 
say his conscience smote him, for they all say at 
home I am the picture of Aunt Ginevra. Mama 
often declares the likeness is quite ridiculous." 

" Were you the only visitor ? " 

" The only visitor ? Yes, then there was missy, 
my cousin : little spoiled, pampered thing." 

" M. de Bassompierre has a daughter ? " 

" Yes, yes : don't tease one with questions. Oh 
dear ! I am so tired." 

She yawned. Throwing herself without cere- 
mony on my bed, she added, " It seems Made- 
moiselle was nearly crushed to a jelly in a hubbub 
at the theatre some weeks ago." 

" Ah ! indeed. And they live at a large hotel in 
the Rue Crecy ? " 

w Justement. How do you know ? " 

s< I have been there." 

" Oh you have? Really! You go everywhere 
in these days. I suppose Mother Bretton took 
you? She and Esculapius have the entree of the 



M. DE BASSOMPIERRE. 213 

de Bassompierre apartments: it seems 'my son 
John ' attended missy on the occasion of her acci- 
dent — accident ? Bah ! All affectation ! I don't 
think she was squeezed more than she richly de- 
serves for her airs. And now there is quite an in- 
timacy struck up : I heard something about ( Auld 
lang syne/ and what not ? Oh, how stupid they all 
were ! " 

" All! You said you were the only visitor? " 

" Did I ? You see one forgets to particularize 
an old woman and her boy." 

" Dr. and Mrs. Bretton were at M. de Bassom- 
pierre's this evening ? " 

u Ay, ay ! as large as life ; and missy played 
the hostess. What a conceited doll it is ! n 

Soured and listless, Miss Fanshawe was begin- 
ning to disclose the causes of her prostrate condition. 
There had been a retrenchment of incense, a diver- 
sion or a total withholding of homage and atten- 
tion : coquetry had failed of effect, vanity had 
undergone mortification. She lay fuming in the 
vapours. 

"Is Miss de Bassompierre quite well now?' : I 
asked. 

As well as you or I, no doubt ; but she is an 



a 



214 VILLETTE. 

affected little thing, and gave herself invalid airs 
to attract medical notice. And to see the old 
dowager making her recline on a couch, and f my 
son John ' prohibiting excitement, etcetera — faugh ! 
the scene was quite sickening." 

" It would not have been so if the object of 
attention had been changed : if you had taken Miss 
de Bassompierre's place." 

" Indeed ! I hate ( my son John ! ' " 

" c My son John ! ' — whom do you indicate by that 
name? Dr. Bretton's mother never calls him so." 

" Then she ought. A clownish, bearish John he 



is." 



" You violate the truth in saying so ; and as the 
whole of my patience is now spun off the distaff, I 
peremptorily desire you to rise from that bed, and 
vacate this room." 

(i Passionate thing ! Your face is the colour of a 
coquelicot. I wonder what always makes you so 
mighty testy a Fendroit du gros Jean ? e John 
Anderson, my joe, John!' Oh! the distinguished 
name ! " 

Thrilling with exasperation, to which it would 
have been sheer folly to have given vent — for there 
was no contending with that unsubstantial feather, 



M. DE BASSOMPIEEEE. 215 

that mealy-winged moth — I extinguished my taper, 
locked my bureau, and left her, since she would not 
leave me. Small-beer as she was, she had turned 
insufferably acid. 

The morrow was Thursday and a half-holiday. 
Breakfast was over; I had withdrawn to the first 
classe. The dreaded hour, the post-hour, was near- 
ing, and I sat waiting it, much as a ghost-seer might 
wait his spectre. Less than ever was a letter 
probable ; still, strive as I would, I could not 
forget that it was possible. As the moments 
lessened, a restlessness and fear almost beyond the 
average assailed me. It was a day of winter 
east wind, and I had now for some time entered 
into that dreary fellowship with the winds and their 
changes, so little known, so incomprehensible to the 
healthy. The north and east owned a terrific in- 
fluence, making all pain more poignant, all sorrow 
sadder. The south could calm, the west sometimes 
cheer : unless, indeed, they brought on their wings 
the burden of thunder-clouds, under the weight and 
warmth of which all energy died. 

Bitter and dark as was this January day, I re- 
member leaving the classe, and running down 
without bonnet to the bottom of the long gar- 



216 VILLETTE. 

den, and then lingering amongst the stripped 
shrubs ; in the forlorn hope that the postman's ring 
might occur while I was out of hearing, and I might 
thus be spared the thrill which some particular 
nerve or nerves, almost gnawed through with the 
unremitting tooth of a fixed idea, were becoming 
wholly unfit to support. I lingered as long as I 
dared without fear of attracting attention by my 
absence. I muffled my head in my apron, and stop- 
ped my ears in terror of the torturing clang, sure 
to be followed by such blank silence, such barren 
vacuum for me. At last I ventured to re-enter the 
first- classe, where, as it was not yet nine o'clock, 
no pupils had been admitted. The first thing seen 
was a white object on my black desk, a white, flat 
object. The post had, indeed, arrived ; by me 
unheard. Rosine had visited my cell, and, like 
some angel, had left behind her a bright token of 
her presence. That shining thing on the desk was 
indeed a letter, a real letter ; I saw so much at the 
distance of three yards, and as I had but one cor- 
respondent on earth, from that one it must come. 
He remembered me yet. How deep a pidse of 
gratitude sent new life through my heart. 

Drawing near, bending and looking on the letter, 



M. DE BASSOMPIERKE. 217 

in trembling but almost certain hope of seeing a 
known hand, it was my lot to find, on the con- 
trary, an autograph for the moment deemed un- 
known — a pale female scrawl, instead of a firm 
masculine character. I then thought fate was too 
hard for me, and I said, audibly, " This is cruel." 

But I got over that pain also. Life is still life, 
whatever its pangs : our eyes and ears and their 
use remain with us, though the prospect of what 
pleases be wholly withdrawn, and the sound of what 
consoles be quite silenced. 

I opened the billet : by this time I had recog- 
nized its handwriting as perfectly familiar. It was 
dated M La Terrasse," and it ran thus : — 

" Dear Lucy, — It occurs to me to inquire what 
you have been doing with yourself for the last 
month or two ? Not that I suspect you would have 
the least difficulty in giving an account of your 
proceedings. I daresay you have been just as busy 
and happy as ourselves at La Terrasse. As to 
Graham, his professional connection extends daily : 
he is so much sought after, so much engaged, that 
I tell him he will grow quite conceited. Like a 
right good mother, as I am, I do my best to keep 



218 TILLETTE. 

him clown : no flattery does he get from me, as you 
know. And yet, Lucy, he is a fine fellow; his 
mother's heart dances at the sis^ht of him. After 
being hurried here and there the whole day, and 
passing the ordeal of fifty sorts of tempers, and 
combating a hundred caprices, and sometimes wit- 
nessing cruel sufferings — perhaps, occasionally, as I 
tell him, inflicting them — at night he still comes 
home to me in such kindly, pleasant mood, that, 
really, I seem to live in a sort of moral antipodes, 
and on these January evenings my day rises when 
other people's night sets in. 

" Still he needs keeping in order, and correcting, 
and repressing, and I do him that good service ; 
but the boy is so elastic there is no such thing as 
vexing him thoroughly. When I think I have at 
last driven him to the sullens, he turns on me with 
jokes for retaliation : but you know him and all 
his iniquities, and I am but an elderly simpleton to 
make hin the subject of this epistle. 

"As for me, I have had my old Bretton agent 
here on a visit, and have been plunged over head 
and ears in business matters. I do so wish to 
regain for Graham at least some part of what his 
father left him. He laughs to scorn my anxiety 



M. DE BAS80MPIERRE. 219 

on this point, bidding me look and see how he 
can provide for himself and me too, and asking 
what the old lady can possibly want that she has 
not ; hinting about sky-blue turbans ; accusing me 
of an ambition to wear diamonds, keep livery ser- 
vants, have an hotel, and lead the fashion amongst 
the English clan in Villette. 

" Talking of sky-blue turbans, I wished you had 
been with us the other evening. He had come 
in really tired ; and after I had given him his tea, 
he threw himself into my chair with his customary 
presumption. To my great delight, he dropped 
asleep. (You know how he teazes me about being 
drowsy ; I, who never, by any chance, close an 
eye by daylight). While he slept, I thought he 
looked very bonny, Lucy : fool as I am to be so 
proud of him: but who can help it? Show me 
his peer. Look where I will I see nothing like 
him in Villette. Well, I took it into my head to 
play him a trick: so I brought out the sky-blue 
turban, and handling it and him with gingerly 
precaution, I managed to invest his brows with 
this grand adornment. I assure you it did not at 
all misbecome him ; he looked quite Eastern, 
except that he is so fair. Xobody, however, can 



220 VILLETTE. 

accuse him of having red hair now — it is genuine 
chestnut — a dark, glossy chestnut; and when I 
put my large Cashmere about him, there was as 
fine a young bey, dey, or pacha improvised as you 
would wish to see. 

"It was good entertainment; but only half- 
enjoyed, since I was alone : you should have been 
there. 

" In due time my lord awoke : the looking-glass 
above the fireplace soon intimated to him his plight : 
as you may imagine, I now live under threat and 
dread of vengeance. 

" But to come to the gist of my letter. I know 
Thursday is a half-holiday in the Rue Fossette : be 
ready, then, by five in the afternoon, at which 
hour I will send the carriage to take you out to 
La Terrasse. Be sure to come : you may meet 
some old acquaintance.] Grood-by, my wise, dear, 
grave little god-daughter. — Very truly, yours, 

" Louisa Bretton." 

Now, a letter like that sets one to rights! I 
might still be sad after reading that letter, but I 
was more composed ; not exactly cheered, perhaps, 
but relieved. My friends, at least, were well and 



M. DE EASSOMPIEEEE. 221 

happy : no accident had occurred to Graham ; no 
illness had seized his mother — calamities that had 
so long been my dream and thought. Their 
feelings for me too were — as they had been. Yet, 
how strange it was to look on Mrs. Bretton's seven 
weeks and contrast them with my seven weeks ! 
Also, how very wise it is in people placed in an 
exceptional position to hold their tongues and not 
rashly declare how such position galls them ! The 
world can understand well enough the process of 
perishing for want of food : perhaps few persons 
can enter into or follow out that of going mad from 
solitary confinement. They see the long-buried 
prisoner disinterred, a maniac or an idiot! — how 
his senses left him — how his nerves, first inflamed, 
underwent nameless agony, and then sunk to palsy 
— is a subject too intricate for examination, too 
abstract for popular comprehension. Speak of it ! 
you might almost as well stand up in an European 
market-place, and propound dark sayings in that 
language and mood wherein Nebuchadnezzar, the 
imperial hypochondriac, communed with his baffled 
Chaldeans. And long, long may the minds to 
whom such themes are no mystery — by whom their 
bearings are sympathetically seized — be few in 



222 VILLETTE. 

number, and rare of rencounter. Long may it be 
generally thought that physical privations alone 
merit compassion, and that the rest is a figment. 
When the world was younger and haler than now, 
moral trials were a deeper mystery still : perhaps 
in all the land of Israel there was but one Saul — 
certainly but one David to soothe or comprehend 
him. 



The keen, still cold of the morning was suc- 
ceeded, later in the day, by a sharp breathing from 
Russian wastes : the cold zone sighed over the 
temperate zone, and froze it fast. A heavy firma- 
ment, dull, and thick with snow, sailed up from 
the north, and settled over expectant Europe. 
Towards afternoon began the descent. I feared no 
carriage would come — the white tempest raged so 
dense and wild. But trust my godmother! Once 
having asked, she would have her guest. About 
six o'clock I was lifted from the carriage over the 
already blocked-up front steps of the chateau, and 
put in at the door of La Terrasse. 

Running through the vestible, and up-stairs to 
the drawing-room, there I found Mrs. Bretton — a 
summer-day in her own person. Had I been twice 



M. DE BASSOMPIEMIE. 223 

as cold as I was, her kind kiss and cordial clasp 
would have warmed me. Inured now for so Ions; a 
time to rooms with bare boards, black benches, desks, 
and stoves, the blue saloon seemed to me gorgeous. 
In its Christmas-like fire alone there was a clear and 
crimson splendour which quite dazzled me. 

When my godmother had held my hand for a 
little while, and chatted with me, and scolded me 
for having become thinner than when she last saw 
me, she professed to discover that the snow -wind 
had disordered my hair, and sent me up-stairs to 
make it neat, and remove my shawl. 

Repairing to my own little sea-green room, there 
also I found a bright fire, and candles too were 
lit: a tall waxhVht stood on each side the Great 
looking-glass ; but between the candles, and before 
the glass, appeared something dressing itself — an 
airy, fairy thing — small, slight, white — a winter 
spirit. 

I declare, for one moment I thought of Graham 
and his spectral illusions. With distrustful eye I 
noted the details of this new vision. It wore 
white, sprinkled slightly with drops of scarlet; its 
girdle was red ; it had something in its hair leafy, 
yet shining — a little wreath with an evergreen 



224 VILLETTE. 

gloss. Spectral or not, here truly was nothing 
frightful, and I advanced. 

Turning quick upon me, a large eye, under long 
lashes, flashed over me, the intruder: the lashes 
were as dark as long, and they softened with their 
pencilling the orb they guarded. 

" Ah ! you are come ! " she breathed out, in a 
soft, quiet voice, and she smiled slowly, and gazed 
intently. 

I knew her now. Having only once seen that 
sort of face, with that cast of fine and delicate 
featuring, I could not but know her. 

u Miss de Bassompierre," I pronounced. 

u No," was the reply, " not Miss de Bassompierre 
for your I did not inquire who then she might 
be, but waited voluntary information. 

" You are changed, but still you are yourself," 
she said, approaching nearer. " I remember you 
well — your countenance, the colour of your hair, 
the outline of your face. . . ." 

I had moved to the fire, and she stood opposite, 
and gazed into me ; and as she gazed, her face 
became gradually more and more expressive of 
thought and feeling, till at last a dimness quenched 
her clear vision. 



M. DE BASSOMPIERRE. 225 

<( It makes me almost cry to look so far back," 
said she ; " but as to being sorry, or sentimental, 
don't think it: on the contrary, I am quite pleased 
and glad." 

Interested, yet altogether at fault, I knew not 
what to say. At last I stammered, "I think I 
never met you till that night, some weeks ago, 
when you were hurt . . . ? " 

She smiled. "You have forgotten then that I 
have sat on your knee, been lifted in your arms, 
even shared your pillow? You no longer remem- 
ber the night when I came crying, like a naughty 
little child as I was, to your bedside, and you 
took me in ? You have no memory for the comfort 
and protection by which you soothed an acute 
distress? Go back to Bretton. Remember Mr. 
Home." 

At last I saw it all. " And you are little 
Polly?" 

" I am Paulina Mary Home de Bassompierre." 

How time can change ! Little Polly wore in her 
pale, small features, her fairy symmetry, her 
varying expression, a certain promise of interest 
and grace; but Paulina Mary was become beau- 
tiful — not with the beauty that strikes the eye 

VOL. II. q 



226 VILEETTE. 

like a rose — orbed, ruddy, and replete ; not with 
the plump, and pink, and flaxen attributes of her 
blond cousin Ginevra ; but her seventeen years had 
brought her a refined and tender charm which did 
not lie in complexion, though hers was fair and 
clear ; nor in outline, though her features were 
sweet, and her limbs perfectly turned ; but, I think, 
rather in a subdued glow from the soul outward. 
This was not an opaque vase, of material however 
costly, but a lamp chastely lucent, guarding from 
extinction, yet not hiding from worship, a flame 
vital and vestal. In speaking of her attractions, 
I would not exaggerate language ; but, indeed, 
they seemed to me very real and engaging. What 
though all was on a small scale, it was the perfume 
which gave this white violet distinction, and made 
it superior to the broadest camelia — the fullest 
dahlia that ever bloomed. 

" Ah ! and vou remember the old time at 
Bretton?" 

(( Better," said she, " better, perhaps, than you. 
I remember it with minute distinctness: not only 
the time, but the days of the time, and the hours 
of the days." 

"You must have forgotten some things?" 



M. DE BASSOMPIERRE. 227 

" Very little, I imagine." 

" You were then a little creature of quick 
feelings : you must, long ere this, have outgrown 
the impressions with which joy and grief, affection 
and bereavement, stamped your mind ten years 
ago?" 

"You think I have forgotten whom I liked, and 
in what degree I liked them when a child ? " 

" The sharpness must be gone — the point, the 
poignancy — the deep imprint must be softened away 
and effaced?" 

" I have a good memory for those days." 

She looked as if she had. Her eyes were the 
eyes of one who can remember; one whose child- 
hood does not fade like a dream, nor whose youth 
vanish like a sunbeam. She would not take life, 
loosely and incoherently, in parts, and let one 
season slip as she entered on another: she would 
retain and add; often review from the commence- 
ment, and so grow in harmony and consistency as 
she grew in years. Still I could not quite admit 
the conviction that all the pictures which now 
crowded upon me were vivid and visible to her. 
Her fond attachments, her sports and contests with 
a well-loved playmate, the patient, true devotion 



228 VILLETTE. 

of her child's heart, her fears, her delicate reserves, 
her little trials, the last piercing pain of separation, 
..... I retraced these things, and shook my head 
incredulous. She persisted. " The child of seven 
years lives yet in the girl of seventeen," said 
she. 

ee You used to be excessively fond of Mrs. 
Bretton," I remarked, intending to test her. She 
set me right at once. 

fe Not excessively fond," said she ; ei I liked her : 
I respected her, as I should do now : she seems to 
me very little altered." 

" She is not much changed," I assented. 

We were silent a few minutes. Glancing round 
the room, she said — 

" There are several things here that used to be 
at Bretton. I remember that pincusliion and that 
looking-glass." 

Evidently she was not deceived in her estimate 
of her own memory ; not, at least, so far. 

"You think, then, you would have known Mrs. 
Bretton?" I went on. 

" I perfectly remembered her ; the turn of her 
features, her olive complexion, and black hair, her 
height, her walk, her voice." 



M. DE BASSOMPIEREE. 229 

" Dr. Bretton, of course," I pursued, " would be 
out of the question : and, indeed, as I saw your 
first interview with him, I am aware that he ap- 
peared to you as a stranger." 

" That first night I was puzzled," she answered. 

" How did the recognition between him and your 
father come about?" 

" They exchanged cards. The names Graham 
Bretton and Home de Bassompierre give rise to 
questions and explanations. That was on the 
second day; but before then I was beginning to 
know something." 

" How — know something ? " 

"Why," she said, "how strange it is that most 
people seem so slow to feel the truth — not to see,, 
but feel ! When Dr. Bretton had visited me a few 
times, and sat near and talked to me ; when I had 
observed the look in his eyes, the expression about- 
his mouth, the form of his chin, the carriage of his 
head, and all that we do observe in persons who 
approach us — how could I avoid being led by associa- 
tion to think of Graham Bretton ? Graham was 
slighter than he, and not grown so tall, and had a 
smoother face, and longer and lighter hair, and 
spoke — not so deeply — more like a girl ; but yet he 



230 VILLETTE. 

is Graham, just as / am little Polly, or you are Lucy 
Snowe." 

I thought the same, but I wondered to find my 
thoughts hers : there are certain things in which we 
so rarely meet with our double that it seems a miracle 
when that chance befals. 

" You and Graham were once playmates." 

" And do you remember that ?" she questioned in 
her turn. 

" No doubt he will remember it also," said I. 

" I have not asked him : few things would surprise 
me so much as to find that he did. I suppose his 
disposition is still gay and careless?" 

" Was it so formerly ? Did it so strike you ? Do 
you thus remember him?" 

" I scarcely remember him in any other light. 
Sometimes he was studious; sometimes he was 
merry : but whether busy with his books or disposed 
for play, it was chiefly the books or game he thought 
of; not much heeding those with whom he read or 
amused himself." 

Yet to you he was partial." 
Partial to me? Oh, no! he had other play- 
mates — his school -fellows; I was of little conse- 
quence to him, except on Sundays : yes, he was kind 



a 



a 



M. BE BASSOMPIERRE. 231 

on Sundays. I remember walking with him band in 
hand to St. Mary's, and bis finding the places in my 
prayer-book ; and how good and still he was on 
Sunday evenings ! So mild for such a proud, lively 
boy ; so patient with all my blunders in reading ; 
and so wonderfully to be depended on, for he never 
spent those evenings from home : I had a constant 
fear that he would accept some invitation and for- 
sake us ; but he never did, nor seemed ever to wish to 
do it. Thus, of course, it can be no more. I sup- 
pose Sunday will now be Dr. Bretton's dining-out 

day ?" 

" Children, come down !" here called Mrs. Bretton 
from below. Paulina would still have lingered, but 
I inclined to descend : we went down. 



232 TILLETTE. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 



Cheerful as my godmother naturally was, and 
entertaining as, for our sakes, she made a point of 
being, there was no true enjoyment that evening at 
La Terrasse, till, through the wild howl of the 
winter-night, were heard the signal sounds of arrival. 
How often, while women and girls sit warm at 
snug fire-sides, their hearts and imaginations are 
doomed to divorce from the comfort surrounding 
their persons, forced out by night to wander through 
dark ways, to dare stress of weather, to contend with 
the snow-blast, to wait at lonely gates and stiles in 
wildest storms, watching and listening to see and 
hear the father, the son, the husband coming 
home. 

Father and son came at last to the chateau : for 
the Count de Bassompierre that night accompanied 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 233 

Dr. Bretton. I know not which of our trio heard 
the horses first; the asperity, the violence of the 
weather warranted our running; down into the hall 
to meet and greet the two riders as they came in ; 
but they warned us to keep our distance : both were 
white — two mountains of snow; and indeed Mrs. 
Bretton, seeing their condition, ordered them in- 
stantly to the kitchen; prohibiting them, at their 
peril, from setting foot on her carpeted staircase till 
they had severally put off that mask of Old Christ- 
mas they now affected. Into the kitchen, however, 
we could not help following them : it was a large 
old Dutch kitchen, picturesque and pleasant. The 
little white Countess danced in a circle about her 
equally white sire, clapping her hands and cry- 
ing,— 

" Papa, papa, you look like an enormous Polar 
bear." 

The bear shook himself, and the little sprite fled far 
from the frozen shower. Back she came, however, 
laughing, and eager to aid in removing; the arctic 
disguise. The Count, at last issuing from his dread- 
nought, threatened to overwhelm her with it as with 
an avalanche. 

" Come, then," said she, bending to invite the fall, 



234 VILLETTE. 

and when it was playfully advanced above her head, 
bounding out of reach like some little chamois. 

Her movements had the supple softness, the velvet 
grace of a kitten; her laugh was clearer than the 
ring of silver and crystal : as she took her sire's cold 
hands and rubbed them, and stood on tiptoe to reach 
his lips for a kiss^ there seemed to shine round her a 
halo of loving delight. The grave and reverend 
signior looked down on her as men do look on what 
is the apple of their eye. 

" Mrs. Bretton," said he ; " what am I to do 
with this daughter or daughterling of mine ? She 
neither grows in wisdom nor in stature. Don't 
you find her pretty nearly as much the child as 
she was ten years ago?" 

" She cannot be more the child than this great 
boy of mine," said Mrs. Bretton, who was in con- 
flict with her son about some change of dress she 
deemed advisable, and which he resisted. He stood 
leaning against the Dutch dresser, laughing and 
keeping her at arms' length. 

" Come, mama/' said he, " by way of compromise, 
and to secure for us inward as well as outward 
warmth, let us have a Christmas wassail-cup, and 
toast Old England here, on the hearth." 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 235 

So, while the Count stood by the fire, and Paulina 
Mary still danced to and fro — happy in the liberty 
of the wide hall-like kitchen — Mrs. Bretton herself 
instructed Martha to spice and heat the wassail- 
bowl, and, pouring the draught into a Bretton 
flagon, it was served round, reaming hot, by means 
of a small silver vessel, which I recognised as Gra- 
ham's christening-cup. 

" Here's to Auld Lang Syne ! " said the Count ; 
holding the glancing cup on high. Then, looking 
at Mrs. Bretton : — 

" We twa ha' paidlet i' the burn 
Fra morning- sun till dine, 
But seas between us braid ha' roared 
Sin' auld lang syne. 

" And surely ye '11 be your pint-stoup, 
As surely I '11 be mine ; 
And we '11 taste a cup o' kindness yet 
For auld lang syne." 

" Scotch! Scotch!" cried Paulina; " papa is 
talking Scotch: and Scotch he is, partly. We 
are Home and De Bassompierre, Caledonian and 
Gallic." 

" And is that a Scotch reel you are dancing, 



236 VILLETTE. 

you Highland fairy?" asked her father. "Mrs. 
Bretton, there will be a green ring growing up in 
the middle of your kitchen shortly. I would not 
answer for her being quite cannie : she is a strange 
little mortal." 

" Tell Lucy to dance with me, papa : there is 
Lucy Snowe." 

Mr. Home (there was still quite as much about 
him of plain Mr. Home as of proud Count de 
Bassompierre) held his hand out to me, saying 
kindly, " he remembered me well ; and, even had 
his own memory been less trustworthy, my name 
was so often on his daughter's lips, and he had 
listened to so many long tales about me, I should 
seem like an old acquaintance." 

Every one now had tasted the wassail-cup except 
Paulina, whose pas de fee, ou de fantaisie, nobody 
thought of interrupting to offer so profanatory a 
draught; but she was not to be overlooked, nor 
baulked of her mortal privileges. 

" Let me taste," said she to Graham, as he was 
putting the cup on the shelf of the dresser out of her 
reach. 

Mrs. Bretton and Mr. Home were now engaged 
in conversation. Dr. John had not been unob- 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 237 

servant of the fairy's dance; lie had watched it, 
and he had liked it. To say nothing of the softness 
and beauty of the movements, eminently grateful 
to his grace-loving eye, that ease in his mothers' 
house charmed him, for it set him at ease : again 
she seemed a child for him — again, almost his 
playmate. I wondered how he would speak to 
her ; I had not yet seen him address her ; his 
first words proved that the old days of " little 
Polly" had been recalled to his mind by this 
evening's child-like light-heartedness. 

" Your ladyship wishes for the tankard ? " 

" I think I said so. I think I intimated as 
much." 

" Couldn't consent to a step of the kind on any 
account. Sorry for it, but couldn't do it." 

" Why ? I am quite well now : it can't break 
my collar-bone again, or dislocate my shoulder. Is 
it wine ? " 

" No ; nor dew." 

" I don't want dew; I don't like dew: but what 
is it?" 

"Ale — strong ale — old October; brewed, per- 
haps, when I was born." 

(i It must be curious : is it good?" 



238 TILLETTE. 

" Excessively good." 

And he took it down, administered to himself 
a second dose of this mighty elixir, expressed in 
his mischievous eyes extreme contentment with the 
same, and solemnly replaced the cup on the shelf. 

" I should like a little," said Paulina, looking up ; 
(i I never had any e old October :' is it sweet ?" 

" Perilouslv sweet," said Graham. 

She continued to look up exactly with the coun- 
tenance of a child that longs for some prohibited 
dainty. At last the Doctor relented, took it down, 
and indulged himself in the gratification of letting 
her taste from his hand ; his eyes, always expressive 
in the revelation of pleasurable feelings, luminously 
and smilingly avowed that it was a gratification ; 
and he prolonged it by so regulating the position 
of the cup that only a drop at a time could reach 
the rosy, sipping lips by which its brim was 
courted. 

" A little more — a little more," said she, petu- 
lantly touching his hand with her forefinger, to 
make him incline the cup more generously and 
yieldingly. " It smells of spice and sugar, but I 
can't taste it ; your wrist is so stiff, and you are so 
stingy." 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 239 

He indulged her, whispering, however, with 
gravity: "Don't tell my mother or Lucy; they 
wouldn't approve." 

" Nor do I," said she, passing into another tone 
and manner as soon as she had fairly assayed the 
beverage, just as if it had acted upon her like 
some disenchanting draught, undoing the work of a 
wizard : * I find it anything but sweet ; it is bitter 
and hot, and takes away my breath. Your old 
October was only desirable while forbidden. Thank 
you, no more." 

And, with a slight bend — careless, but as graceful 
as her dance — she glided from him and rejoined 
her father. 

I think she had spoken truth : the child of seven 
was in the girl of seventeen. 

Graham looked after her a little baffled, a little 
puzzled ; his eye was on her a good deal during 
the rest of the evening, but she did not seem to 
notice him. 

As we ascended to the drawing-room for tea, 
she took her father's arm : her natural place seemed 
to be at his side ; her eyes and her ears were 
dedicated to him. He and Mrs. Bretton were 
the chief talkers of our little party, and Paulina 



240 VILLETTE. 

was their best listener, attending closely to all 
that was said, prompting the repetition of this or 
that trait or adventure. 

" And where were you at such a time, papa? 
And what did you say then ? And tell Mrs. Bretton 
what happened on that occasion." Thus she drew 
him out. 

She did not again yield to any effervescence of 
glee; the infantine sparkle was exhaled for the 
night : she was soft, thoughtful, and docile. It 
was pretty to see her bid good-night; her manner 
to Graham was touched with dignity: in her very 
slight smile and quiet bow spoke the Countess, and 
Graham could not but look grave, and bend respon- 
sive. I saw he hardly knew how to blend together 
in his ideas the dancing fairy and delicate dame. 

Next day, when we were all assembled round 
the breakfast table, shivering and fresh from the 
morning's chill ablutions, Mrs. Bretton pronounced 
a decree that nobody, who was not forced by dire 
necessity, should quit her house that day. 

Indeed, egress seemed next to impossible; the 
drift darkened the lower panes of the casement, 
and, on looking out, one saw the sky and air 
vexed and dim, the wind and snow in angry con- 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 241 

flict. There was no fall now, but what had already 
descended was torn up from the earth, whirled 
round by brief shrieking gusts, and cast into a 
hundred fantastic forms. 

The Countess seconded Mrs. Bretton. 

" Papa shall not go out," said she, <e placing a 
seat for herself beside her father's arm-chair. " I 
will look after him. You won't go into town, will 
you, papa?" 

Ci Aye, and No," was the answer. " If you and 
Mrs. Bretton are very good to me, Polly — kind, 
you know, and attentive ; if you pet me in a very 
nice manner, and make much of me, I may possibly 
be induced to wait an hour after breakfast and see 
whether this razor-edged wind settles. But, you 
see, you give me no breakfast ; you offer me 
nothing: you let me starve." 

" Quick ! please, Mrs. Bretton, and pour out the 
coffee," entreated Paulina, " whilst I take care of 
the Count de Bassompierre in other respects : since 
he grew into a Count, he has needed so much 
attention." 

She separated and prepared a roll. 

" There, papa, are your i pistolets' charged?" said 
she. " And there is some marmalade, just the same 

VOL. II. R 



242 VILLETTE. 

sort of marmalade we used to have at Bretton, and 
which you said was as good as if it had been con- 
served in Scotland " 

" And which your little ladyship used to beg 
for my boy — do you remember that?" interposed 
Mrs. Bretton. " Have you forgotten how you 
would come to my elbow and touch my sleeve with 
the whisper, e please ma'am, something good for 
Graham — a little marmalade, or honey, or jam ? ' 

" No, mama," broke in Dr. John, laughing, yet 
reddening ; " it surely was not so : I could not 
have cared for these things." 

" Did he or did he not, Paulina ? " 

" He liked them," asserted Paulina. 

" Never blush for it, John," said Mr. Home, 
encouragingly. " I like them myself yet, and 
always did. And Polly showed her sense in cater- 
ing for a friend's material comforts : it was I who 
put her into the way of such good manners — nor 
do I let her forget them. Polly, offer me a small 
slice of that tongue." 

" There, papa : but remember you are only waited 
upon with this assiduity, on condition of being per- 
suadable, and reconciling yourself to La Terrasse 
for the day." 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 243 

" Mrs. Bretton," said the Count, " I want to 
get rid of my daughter, to send her to school. Do 
you know of any good school ? " 

" There is Lucy's place — Madame Beck's." 

" Miss Snowe is in a school ? " 

" I am a teacher," I said, and was rather glad 
of the opportunity of saying this. For a little 
while I had been feeling as if placed in a false 
position. Mrs. Bretton and son knew my circum- 
stances ; but the Count and his daughter did not. 
They might choose to vary by some shades their 
hitherto cordial manner towards me, when aware 
of my grade in society. I spoke then readily : but 
a swarm of thoughts, I had not anticipated nor 
invoked, rose dim at the words, making me sigh 
involuntarily. Mr. Home did not lift his eyes from 
his breakfast-plate for about two minutes, nor did 
he speak; perhaps he had not caught the words — 
perhaps he thought that on a confession of that 
nature, politeness would interdict comment : the 
Scotch are proverbially proud ; and homely as was 
Mr. Home in look, simple in habits and tastes, I 
have all along intimated that he was not without 
his share of the national quality. Was his a p?eudo 
pride ? was it real dignity ? I leave the question 



244 VILLETTE. 

undecided in its wide sense. Where it concerned 
me individually I can only answer : then, and 
always, he showed himself a true-hearted gentle- 
man. 

By nature he was a feeler and a thinker; over 
his emotions and his reflections spread a mellowing 
of melancholy; more than a mellowing: in trouble 
and bereavement it became a cloud. He did not 
know much about Lucy Snowe ; what he knew, he 
did not very accurately comprehend : indeed his 
misconceptions of my character often made me 
smile ; but he saw my walk in life lay rather on 
the shady side of the hill ; he gave me credit for 
doing my endeavour to keep the course honestly 
straight ; he would have helped me if he could : 
having no opportunity of helping, he still wished 
me well. When he did look at me, his eye was 
kind ; when he did speak, his voice was benevolent. 

" Yours," said he, " is an arduous calling. I 
wish you health and strength to win in it — success. 

His fair little daughter did not take, the in- 
formation quite so composedly: she fixed on me a 
pair of eyes wide with wonder — almost with dis- 
may. 

Are you a teacher?" cried she. Then, having 



a 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 245 

paused on the unpalatable idea, "Well, I never 
knew what you were, nor ever thought of asking: 
for me, you were always Lucy Snowe." 

"And what am I now?" I could not forbear 
inquiring. 

" Yourself, of course. But do you really teach 
here, in YiUette?" 

" I really do." 

"And do you like it?" 

" Not always." 

" And why do you go on with it?" 

Her father looked at, and, I feared, was going 
to check her ; but he only said, ' f Proceed, Polly, 
proceed with that catechism — prove yourself the 
little wiseacre you are. If Miss Snowe were to 
blush and look confused, I should have to bid you 
hold your tongue; and you and I would sit out 
the present meal in some disgrace; but she only 
smiles, so push her hard, multiply the cross-ques- 
tions. Well, Miss Snowe, why do you go on with 
it?" 

" Chiefly, I fear, for the sake of the money I 
get." 

" Not then from motives of pure philanthropy ? 
Polly and I were clinging to that hypothesis, as 



it 

a 



246 VILLETTE. 

the most lenient way of accounting for your eccen- 
tricity." 

" No — no, sir. Rather for the roof of shelter 1 
am thus enabled to keep over my head ; and for 
the comfort of mind it gives me to think that while 
I can work for myself, I am spared the pain of 
being a burden to anybody." 

Papa, say what you will, I pity Lucy." 
Take up that pit} r , Miss de Bassompierre : 
take it up in both hands, as you might a little callow 
gosling squattering out of bounds without leave ; 
put it back in the warm nest of a heart whence 
at issued, and receive in your ear this whisper. If 
my Polly ever came to know by experience the 
uncertain nature of this world's goods, I should like 
her to act as Lucy acts : to work for herself, that 
she might burden neither kith nor kin." 

" Yes, papa," said she, pensively and tractably. 
ci But poor Lucy ! I thought she was a rich lady, 
and had rich friends." 

,e You thought like a little simpleton : / never 
thought so. When I had time to consider Lucy's 
manner and aspect, which was not often, I saw she 
was one who had to guard and not be guarded ; 
to act and not be served : and this lot has, I imagine, 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 247 

helped her to an experience for which, if she live 
long enough to realize its full benefit, she may yet 
bless Providence. But this school," he pursued 
changing his tone from grave to gay : " Would 
Madame Beck admit my Polly, do you think, Miss 
Lucy?" 

I said, there needed but to try madame ; it would 
soon be seen : she was fond of English pupils. " If 
you, sir," I added, i( will but take Miss de Bassom- 
pierre in your carriage this very afternoon, I think 
I can answer for it that Rosine, the portress, will 
not be very slow in answering your ring ; and 
madame, I am sure, will put on her best pair of 
gloves to come into the salon to receive you." 

" In that case," responded Mr. Home, " I see 
no sort of necessity there is for delay. Mrs. 
Hurst can send, what she calls, her young lady's 
' things ' after her ; Polly can settle down to her 
horn-book before night ; and you, Miss Lucy, I 
trust, will not disdain to cast an occasional eye upon 
her, and let me know, from time to time, how she 
gets on. I hope you approve of the arrangement, 
Countess de Bassompierre ?" 

The Countess hemmed and hesitated. " I 
thought," said she, " I thought I had finished my 
education " 



248 YILLETTE. 



44 That only proves how much we may be mis- 
taken in our thoughts : I hold a far different 
opinion, as most of those will who have been 
auditors of your profound knowledge of life this 
morning. Ah, my little girl, thou hast much to 
learn; and papa ought to have taught thee more 
than he has done! Come, there is nothing for it 
but to try Madame Beck ; and the weather seems 
settling, and I have finished my breakfast " 

"But, papa!" 

"Well?" 

" I see an obstacle." 

" I don't at all." 

" It is enormous, papa, it can never be got over ; 
it is as large as you in your great coat, and the 
snowdrift on the top." 

And, like that snowdrift, capable of melting ? " 
No ! it is of too — too solid flesh : it is just your 
own self. Miss Lucy, warn Madame Beck not to 
listen to any overtures about taking me, because, in 
the end, it would turn out that she would have to 
take papa too : as he is so teasing, I will just tell 
tales about him. Mrs. Bretton and all of you 
listen : About five years ago, when I was twelve 
years old, he took it into his head that he was 



a 



(( 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 249 

spoiling me; that I was growing unfitted for the 
world, and I don't know what, and nothing would 
serve or satisfy him, but I must go to school. I 
cried, and so on; but M. de Bassompierre proved 
hard-hearted, quite firm and flinty, and to school I 
went. What was the result ? In the most admira- 
ble manner, papa came to school likewise : every 
other day he called to see me. Madame Aigredoux 
grumbled, but it was of no use ; and so, at last, 
papa and I were both, in a manner, expelled. Lucy 
can just tell Madame Beck this little trait: it is 
only fair to let her know what she has to expect." 

Mrs. Bretton asked Mr. Home what he had to 
say in answer to this statement. As he made no 
defence, judgment was given against him, and 
Paulina triumphed. 

But she had other moods besides the arch and 
naive. After breakfast, when the two elders with- 
drew — I suppose to talk over certain of Mrs. Bret- 
ton's business matters — and the Countess, Dr. 
Bretton, and I were, for a short time, alone to- 
gether — all the child left her ; with us, more nearly 
her companions in age, she rose at once to the 
little lady : her very face seemed to alter ; that play 
of feature, and candour of look, which, when she 



250 VILLETTE. 

spoke to her father, made it quite dimpled and 
round, yielded to an aspect more thoughtful, and 
lines distincter and less mobile. 

No doubt, Graham noted the change as well as 
I. He stood for some minutes near the window, 
looking out at the snow; presently he approached 
the hearth, and entered into conversation, but not 
quite with his usual ease : fit topics did not seem 
to rise to his lips ; he chose them fastidiously, hesi- 
tatingly, and consequently infelicitously : he spoke 
vaguely of Yillette — its inhabitants, its notable 
sights and buildings. He was answered by Miss 
de Bassompierre in quite womanly sort; with in- 
telligence, with a manner not indeed wholly dis- 
individualized : a tone, a glance, a gesture, here and 
there, rather animated and quick than measured 
and stately, still recalled little Polly ; but yet there 
was so fine and even a polish, so calm and courteous 
a grace, gilding and sustaining these peculiarities, 
that a less sensitive man than Graham would not 
have ventured to seize upon them as vantage points, 
leading to franker intimacy. 

Yet while Dr. Bretton continued subdued, and, 
for him, sedate, he was still observant. Not one 
of those pretty impulses and natural breaks escaped 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 251 

him. He did not miss one characteristic movement, 
one hesitation in language, or one lisp in utterance. 
At times, in speaking fast, she still lisped: but 
coloured whenever such lapse occurred, and in a 
painstaking, conscientious manner, quite as amusing 
as the slight error, repeated the word more ^dis- 
tinctly. 

Whenever she did this, Dr. Bretton smiled. 
Gradually, as they conversed, the restraint on each 
side slackened : might the conference have but been 
prolonged, I believe it would soon have become 
genial : already to Paulina's lip and cheek returned 
the wreathing, dimpling smile ; she lisped once, and 
forgot to correct herself. And Dr. John, I know 
not how he changed, but change he did. He did not 
grow gayer — no raillery, no levity sparkled across 
his aspect — but his position seemed to become one 
of more pleasure to himself, and he spoke his aug- 
mented comfort in readier language, in tones more 
suave. Ten years ago, this pair had always found 
abundance to say to each other; the intervening 
decade had not narrowed the experience or im- 
poverished the intelligence of either: besides, there 
are certain natures of which the mutual influence 
is such, that the more they say, the more they have 



252 VILLETTE. 

to say. For these, out of association grows adhesion, 
and out of adhesion, amalgamation. 

Graham, however, must go : his was a profession, 
whose claims are neither to be ignored, nor deferred. 
He left the room; but before he could leave the 
house there was a return. I am sure he came 
back — not for the paper, or card in his desk, 
which formed his ostensible errand — but to assure 
himself, by one more glance, that Paulina's aspect 
was really such as memory was bearing away : that 
he had not been viewing her somehow by a partial, 
artificial light, and making a fond mistake. No ! 
he found the impression true — rather, indeed, he 
gained, than lost, by this return : he took away 
with him a parting look — shy, but very soft — as 
beautiful, as innocent, as any little fawn could lift 
out of its cover of fern, or any lamb from its 
meadow-bed. 

Being left alone, Paulina and I kept silence for 
some time ; we both took out some work, and plied 
a mute and diligent task. The white-wood work- 
box of old days, was now replaced by one inlaid 
with precious mosaic, and furnished with implements 
of gold; the tiny and trembling fingers that could 
scarce guide the needle, though tiny still, were now 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 253 

swift and skilful: but there was the same busy- 
knitting of the brow, the same little dainty manner- 
isms, the same quick turns and movements — now 
to replace a stray tress; and anon to shake from 
the silken skirt some imaginary atom of dust — some 
clinging fibre of thread. 

That morning I was disposed for silence : the 
austere fury of the winter-day, had on me an awing, 
hushing influence. That passion of January, so 
white and so bloodless, was not yet spent : the 
storm had raved itself hoarse, but seemed no nearer 
exhaustion. Had Ginevra Fanshawe been my com- 
panion in that morning-room, she would not have 
suffered me to muse and listened undisturbed. The 
presence just gone from us would have been her 
theme ; and how she would have runaj the changes 
on one topic ! how she would have pursued and 
pestered me with questions and surmises — worried 
and oppressed me with comments and confidences 
I did not want, and longed to avoid. 

Paulina Mary cast once or twice towards me a 
quiet, but penetrating glance of her dark, full eye ; 
her lips half opened, as if to the impulse of coming 
utterance : but she saw and delicately respected my 
inclination for silence. 



254 VILLETTE. 

" This will not hold long," I thought to myself 
for I was not accustomed to find in women or p'irls 
any power of self-control, or strength of self-denial. 
As far as I knew them, the chance of a gossip about 
their usually trivial secrets, their often very washy 
and paltry feelings, was a treat not to be readily 
foregone. 

The little Countess promised an exception : she 
sewed, till she was tired of sewing, and then she 
took a book. 

As chance would have it, she had sought it in 
Dr. Bretton's own compartment of the book-case ; 
and it proved to be an old Bretton book — some 
illustrated work of natural history. Often had I 
seen her standing at Graham's side, resting that 
volume on his knee, and reading to his tuition ; and, 
when the lesson was over, begging, as a treat, that 
he would tell her all about the pictures. I watched 
her keenly: here was a true test of that memory 
she had boasted : would her recollections now be 
faithful ? 

Faithful? It could not be doubted. As she 
turned the leaves, over her face passed gleam 
after gleam of expression, the least intelligent of 
which was a fall greeting to the Past. And then 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 255 

she turned to the title-page, and looked at the 
name written in the schoolboy hand. She looked 
at it long ; nor was she satisfied with merely look- 
ing : she gently passed over the characters the tips 
of her fingers, accompanying the action with an 
unconscious but tender smile, which converted the 
touch into a caress. Paulina loved the Past; but 
the peculiarity of this little scene was, that she said 
nothing : she could feel, without pouring out her 
feelings in a flux of words. 

She now occupied herself at the bookcase for 
nearly an hour ; taking down volume after volume, 
and renewing her acquaintance with each. This, 
done, she seated herself on a low stool, rested her 
cheek on her hand, and thought, and still was 
mute. 

The sound of the front door opened below, a 
rush of cold wind, and her father's voice speaking 
to Mrs. Bretton in the hall, startled her at last. 
She sprang up : she was down-stairs in one second, 

(S Papa ! papa ! you are not going out ?" 

" My pet ; I must go into town." 

" But it is too — too cold, papa." 

And then I heard M. de Bassompierre showing 
to her how he was well provided against the 



256 VILLETTE. 

weather ; and how he was going to have the car- 
riage, and to be quite snugly sheltered; and, in 
short, proving that she need not fear for hiscomfort. 

"But you will promise to come back here this 
evening, before it is quite dark ; — you and Dr. 
Bretton, both, in the carriage ? It is not fit to 
ride." 

"Well, if I see the Doctor, I will tell him a 
lady has laid on him her commands to take care 
of his precious health, and come home early under 
my escort." 

"Yes, you must say a lady; and he will think 
it is his mother, and be obedient. And, papa, 
mind to come soon, for T shall watch and listen." 

The door closed, and the carriage rolled softly 
through the snow ; and back returned the Countess, 
pensive and anxious. 

She did listen, and watch, when evening closed; 
but it was in stillest sort : walking the drawing- 
room with quite noiseless step. She checked at 
intervals her velvet march ; inclined her ear, and 
consulted the night sounds : I should rather say, 
the night silence; for now, at last, the wind was 
fallen. The sky, relieved of its avalanche, lay 
naked and pale : through the barren boughs of 



THE LITTLE COUNTESS. 257 

the avenue we could see it well, and note also the 
polar splendour of the new-year moon — an orb, 
white as a world of ice. Nor was it late when 
we saw also the return of the carriage. 

Paulina had no dance of welcome for this eveniug. 
It was with a sort of gravity that she took immediate 
possession of her father, as he entered the room; 
but she at once made him her entire property, led 
him to the seat of her choice, and, while softly 
showering round him honeyed words of commenda- 
tion for being so good and coming home so soon, 
you would have thought it was entirely by the 
power of her little hands he was put into his chair, 
and settled and arranged ; for] the strong man 
seemed to take pleasure in wholly yielding himself 
to this dominion — potent only by love. 

Graham did not appear till some minutes after 
the Count. Paulina half turned when his step was 
heard : they spoke, but only a word or two ; their 
fingers met a moment, but obviously with slight 
contact. Paulina remained beside her father; Gra- 
ham threw himself into a seat on the other side of 
the room. 

It was well that Mrs. Bretton and Mr. Home had 
a great deal to say to each other — almost an inex- 

VOL. II. S 



258 VILLETTE. 

haustible fund of discourse in old recollections ; 
otherwise, I think, our party would have been but 
a still one that evening. 

After tea, Paulina's quick needle and pretty 
golden thimble were busily plied by the lamp-light, 
but her tongue rested, and her eyes seemed reluc- 
tant to raise often their lids so smooth and so full- 
fringed. Graham too must have been tired with 
his day's work : he listened dutifully to his elders 
and betters, said very little himself, and followed 
with his eye the gilded glance of Paulina's thimble, 
as if it had been some bright moth on the wing, or 
the golden head of some darting little yellow 
serpent. 



A BURIAL. 259 



CHAPTEE XXVII. 



A BURIAL. 



From this date my life did not want variety; 1 
went out a good deal, with the entire consent of 
Madame Beck, who perfectly approved the grade of 
my acquaintance. That worthy directress had 
never from the first treated me otherwise than 
with respect ; and when she found that I was liable 
to frequent invitations from a chateau and a great 
hotel, respect improved into distinction. 

Not that she was fulsome about it: madame, in 
all things worldly, was in nothing weak ; there was 
measure and sense in her hottest pursuit of self-in- 
terest, calm and considerateness in her closest clutch 
of gain; without, then, laying herself open to my 
contempt as a time-server and a toadie, she marked 
with tact that she was pleased people connected with 
her establishment should frequent such associates as 



260 VILLETTE. 

must cultivate and elevate, rather than those who 
might deteriorate and depress. She never praised 
either me or my friends ; only once when she was 
sitting in the sun in the garden, a cup of coffee at 
her elbow and the Gazette in her hand, looking 
very comfortable, and I came up and asked leave of 
absence for the evening, she delivered herself in 
this gracious sort : — 

" Oui, oui, ma bonne amie : je vous donne la per- 
mission de coeur et de gre. Votre travail dans ma 
maison a toujours ete admirable, rempli de zele et 
de discretion : vous avez bien le droit de vous amuser. 
Sortez done tant que vous voudrez. Quant a votre 
choix de connaissances, j'en suis contente ; e'est sage, 
digne, louable." 

She closed her lips and resumed the Gazette. 

The reader will not too gravely regard the little 
circumstance that about this time the triply-enclosed 
packet of five letters temporarily disappeared from 
my bureau. Blank dismay was naturally my first 
sensation on making the discovery ; but in a moment 
I took heart of grace. 

"Patience!" whispered I to myself. "Let me 
say nothing, but wait peaceably ; they will come 
buck again." 



A BURIAL. 261 

And they did come back : they had only been on 
a short visit to madame's chamber; having passed 
their examination, they came back duly and truly : I 
found them all right the next day. 

I wonder what she thought of my correspondence. 
What estimate did she form of Dr. John Bretton's 
epistolary powers? In what light did the often 
very pithy thoughts, the generally sound, and some- 
times original opinions, set, without pretension, in an 
easily-flowing, spirited style, appear to her ? How 
did she like that genial, half-humorous vein, which 
to me gave such delight ? What did she think of the 
few kind words scattered here and there — not thickly, 
as the diamonds were scattered in the valley of 
Sindbad, but sparely, as those gems lie in unfabled 
beds ? Oh, Madame Beck ! how seemed these things 
to you ? 

I think in Madame Beck's eyes the five letters 
found a certain favour. One day after she had 
borrowed them of me (in speaking of so suave a little 
woman, one ought to use suave terms), I caught her 
examining me with a steady contemplative gaze, a 
little puzzled, but not at all malevolent. It was 
during that brief space between lessons, when the 
pupils turned out into the court for a quarter of an 



262 VILLETTE. 

hour's recreation; she and I remained in the first 
class alone : when I met her eye, her thoughts forced 
themselves partially through her lips. 

" II y a," said she, u quelquechose de bien remar- 
quable dans le caractere Anglais." 

"How, Madame?" 

She gave a little laugh, repeating the word " how" 
in English. 

" Je ne saurais vous dire ' how ;' mais, enfin, 
les Anglais ont des idees a eux, en amitie, en 
amour, en tout. Mais au moins il n'est pas besoin 
de les surveiller," she added, getting up and 
trotting away like the compact little pony she 
was. 

" Then I hope," murmured I to myself, " you will 
graciously let alone my letters for the future." 

Alas ! something came rushing into my eyes, 
dimming utterly their vision, blotting from sight the 
schoolroom, the garden, the bright winter sun, as I 
remembered that never more would letters, such as 
she had read, come to me. I had seen the last of 
them. That goodly river on whose banks I had 
sojourned, of whose waves a few reviving drops had 
trickled to my lips, was bending to another course : 
it was leaving my little hut and field forlorn and sand- 



A BURIAL. 263 

dry, pouring its wealth of waters far away. The change 
was right, just, natural; not a word could be said: 
but I loved my Rhine, my Nile ; I had almost wor- 
shipped my Ganges, and I grieved that the grand 
tide should roll estranged, should vanish like a false 
mirage. Though stoical, I was not quite a stoic; 
drops streamed fast on my hands, on my desk : I 
wept one sultry shower, heavy and brief. 

But soon I said to myself, " the Hope I am be- 
moaning suffered and made me suffer much : it did 
not die till it was full time : following an agony so 
lingering, death ought to be welcome." 

Welcome I endeavoured to make it. Indeed, long 
pain had made patience a habit. In the end I closed 
the eyes of my dead, covered its face, and composed 
its limbs with great calm. 

f- The letters, however, must be put away, out of 
sight : people who have undergone bereavement 
always jealously gather together and lock away 
mementos : it is not supportable to be stabbed to the 
heart each moment by sharp revival of regret. 

One vacant holiday afternoon (the Thursday) 
going to my treasure, with intent to consider its 
final disposal, I perceived — and this time with a 
strong impulse of displeasure—- that it had been again 



264 YILLETTE. 

tampered with : the packet was there, indeed, but 
the ribbon which secured it had been untied and 
retied ; and by other symptoms I knew that my 
drawer had been visited. 

This was a little too much. Madame Beck her- 
self was the soul of discretion, besides having as 
strong a brain and sound a judgment as ever fur- 
nished a human head ; that she should know the 
contents of my casket, was not pleasant, but might 
be borne. Little Jesuit inquisitress, as she was, she 
could see things in a true light, and understand them 
in an unperverted sense ; but the idea that she had 
ventured to communicate information, thus gained, 
to others ; that she had, perhaps, amused herself 
with a companion over documents, in my eyes most 
sacred, shocked me cruelly. Yet, that such was the 
case I now saw reason to fear : I even guessed her 
confidant. Her kinsman, M. Paul Emanuel, had 
spent yesterday evening with her : she was much in 
the habit of consulting him, and of discussing with 
him matters she broached to no one else. This very 
morning, in class, that gentleman had favoured me 
with a glance, which he seemed to have borrowed 
from Vashti, the actress ; I had not at the moment 
comprehended that blue, yet lurid, flash out of his 



A BURIAL. 265 

angry eye, but I read its meaning now. He, I be- 
lieved, was not apt to regard what concerned me 
from a fair point of view, nor to judge me with 
tolerance and candour: I had always found him 
severe and suspicious: the thought that these 
letters, mere friendly letters as they were, had fallen 
once, and might fall again, into his hands, jarred my 
very soul. 

What should I do to prevent this ? In what 
corner of this strange house was it possible to find 
security or secresy ? Where could a key be a safe- 
guard, or a padlock a barrier ? 

In the grenier ? No, I did not like the grenier. 
Besides, most of the boxes and drawers there were 
mouldering, and did not lock. Rats, too, gnawed 
their way through the decayed wood; and mice 
made nests amongst the litter of their contents : my 
dear letters (most dear still, though Ichabod was 
written on their covers) might be consumed by ver- 
min ; certainly the writing would soon become 
obliterated by damp. No ; the grenier would not 
do— but where then? 

While pondering this problem, I sat in the dor- 
mitory window-seat. It was a fine frosty afternoon ; 
the winter sun, already setting, gleamed pale on the 



266 VILLETTE. 

tops of the garden-shrubs in the " allee defendue." 
One great old pear-tree — the nun's pear-tree — stood 
up a tall dryad skeleton, gray, gaunt, and stripped. 
A thought struck me — one of those queer fantastic 
thoughts that will sometimes strike solitary people. 
I put on my bonnet, cloak and furs, and went out 
into the city. 

Bending my steps to the old historical quarter of 
the town, whose hoar and overshadowed precincts I 
always sought by instinct in melancholy moods, 
I wandered on from street to street, till, having 
crossed a half-deserted (S place" or square, I found 
myself before a sort of broker's shop ; an ancient 
place, full of ancient things. 

What I wanted was a metal box which might be 
soldered, or a thick glass jar or bottle which might be 
stoppered and sealed hermetically. Amongst mis- 
cellaneous heaps, I found and purchased the latter 
article. 

I then made a little roll of my letters, wrapped 
them in oiled silk, bound them with twine, and, 
having put them in the bottle, got the old Jew 
broker to stopper, seal, and make it air-tight. While 
obeying my directions, he glanced at me now and 
then, suspiciously, from under his frost-white eye- 



A BURIAL. 267 

lashes. I believe he thought there was some evil 
deed on hand. In all this I had a dreary something 
— not pleasure — but a sad, lonely satisfaction. The 
impulse under which I acted, the mood controlling 
me, were similar to the impulse and the mood which 
had induced me to visit the confessional. With quick 
walking I regained the pensionnat just at dark, and 
in time for dinner. 

At seven o'clock the moon rose. At half-past 
seven, when the pupils and teachers were at study, 
and Madame Beck was with her mother and chil- 
dren in the salle a manger, when the half-boarders 
were all gone home, and Rosine had left the vesti- 
bule, and all was still — I shawled myself, and, 
taking the sealed jar, stole out through the first- 
classe door, into the berceau and thence into the 
" allee defendue." 

Methusaleh, the pear-tree, stood at the further end 
of this walk, near my seat : he rose up, dim and gray, 
above the lower shrubs round him. Now Methu- 
saleh, though so very old, was of sound timber still ; 
only there was a hole, or rather a deep hollow, near 
his root. I knew there was such a hollow, hidden 
partly by ivy and creepers growing thick round ; and 
there I meditated hiding my treasure. But I was 



268 VILLETTE. 

not only going to hide a treasure — I meant also to 
bury a grief. That grief over which I had lately been 
weeping, as I wrapped it in its winding-sheet, must 
be interred. 

"Well, I cleared away the ivy, and found the 
hole; it was large enough to receive the jar, and 
I thrust it deep in. In a tool-shed at the bottom 
of the garden, lay the relics of building-materials, 
left by masons lately employed to repair a part of 
the premises. I fetched thence a slate and some 
mortar, put the slate on the hollow, secured it with 
cement, covered the whole with black mould, and, 
finally, replaced the ivy. This done, I rested, 
leaning against the tree ; lingering, like any other 
mourner, beside a newly-sodded grave. 

The air of the night was very still, but dim 
with a peculiar mist, which changed the moonlight 
into a luminous haze. In this air, or this mist, 
there was some quality — electrical, perhaps — which 
acted in strange sort upon me. I felt then as I 
had felt a year ago in England — on a night when 
the aurora borealis was streaming and sweeping 
round heaven, when, belated in lonely fields, I 
had paused to watch that mustering of an army 
with banners — that quivering of serried lances — 



A BURIAL. 269 

that swift ascent of messengers from below the 
north star to the dark, high keystone of heaven's 
arch. I felt, not happy, far otherwise, but strong 
with reinforced strength. 

If life be a war, it seemed my destiny to conduct 
it single-handed. I pondered now how to break 
up my winter- quarters — to leave an encampment 
w^here food and forage failed. Perhaps, to effect 
this change, another pitched battle must be fought 
with fortune ; if so, I had a mind to the encounter : 
too poor to lose, God might destine me to gain. 
But what road was open ? — what plan available ? 

On this question I was still pausing, when the 
moon, so dim hitherto, seemed to shine out some- 
what brighter : a ray gleamed even white before 
me, and a shadow became distinct and marked. I 
looked more narrowly, to make out the cause of this 
well-defined contrast appearing a little suddenly 
in the obscure alley : whiter and blacker it grew 
on my eye : it took shape with instantaneous trans- 
formation. I stood about three yards from a tall, 
sable-robed, snowy-veiled woman. 

Five minutes passed. I neither fled nor shrieked. 
She was there still. I spoke. 

"Who are you? and why do you come to me?" 



270 VILLETTE. 

She stood mute. She had no face — no features : 
all below her brow was masked with a white cloth ; 
but she had eyes, and they viewed me. 

I felt, if not brave, yet a little desperate ; and 
desperation will often suffice to fill the post and do 
the work of courage. I advanced one step. I 
stretched out my hand, for I meant to touch her. 
She seemed to recede. I drew nearer : her recession, 
still silent, became swift. A mass of shrubs, 
full-leaved evergreens laurel and dense yew, in- 
tervened between me and what I followed. Having 
passed that obstacle, I looked and saw nothing. I 
waited. I said, — " If you have any errand to me, 
come back and deliver it." Nothing spoke or re- 
appeared. 

This time there was no Dr. John to whom to 
have recourse : there was no one to whom I dared 
whisper the words, " I have again seen the nun." 



Paulina Mary sought my frequent presence in 
the Rue Crecy. In the old Bretton days, though 
she had never professed herself fond of me, my 
society had soon become to her a sort of unconscious 
necessary. I used to notice that if I withdrew to 



A BURIAL. 271 

my room, she would speedily come trotting after 
me, and opening the door and peeping in, say, with 
her little peremptory accent, — 

" Come down. Why do you sit here by your- 
self? You must come into the parlour." 

In the same spirit she urged me now — 

" Leave the Rue Fossette," she said, " and come 
and live with us. Papa would give you far more 
than Madame Beck gives you." 

Mr. Home himself offered me a handsome sum — 
thrice my present salary — if I would accept the 
office of companion to his daughter. I declined. I 
think I should have declined had I been poorer 
than I was, and with scantier fund of resource, more 
stinted narrowness of future prospect. I had not 
that vocation. I could teach ; I could give lessons ; 
but to be either a private governess or a com- 
panion was unnatural to me. Rather than fill the 
former post in any great house, I would delibe- 
rately have taken a housemaid's place, bought a 
strong pair of gloves, swept bedrooms and stair- 
cases, and cleaned stoves and locks, in peace and 
independence. Rather than be a companion, I 
would have made shirts, and starved. 

I was no bright ladvs shadow — not Miss de 



272 VILLETTE. 

Bassompierre's. Overcast enough it was my nature 
often to be ; of a subdued habit I was : but the 
dimness and depression must both be voluntary — 
such as kept me docile at my desk, in the midst of 
my now well-accustomed pupils in Madame Beck's 
first classe ; or alone, at my own bedside, in her 
dormitory, or in the alley and seat which were 
called mine, in her garden : my qualifications were 
not convertible, not adaptable ; they could not 
be made the foil of any gem, the adjunct of any 
beauty, the appendage of any greatness in Chris- 
tendom. Madame Beck and I, without assimilating, 
understood each other well. I was not her com- 
panion, nor her children's governess ; she left me 
free: she tied me to nothing — not to herself — not 
even to her interests : once, when she had for a 
fortnight been called from home by a near relation's 
illness, and on her return, all anxious and full of 
care about her establishment, lest something in her 
absence should have gone wrong — finding that 
matters had proceeded much as usual, and that 
there was no evidence of glaring neglect — she made 
each of the teachers a present, in acknowledgement 
of steadiness. To my bedside she came at twelve 
o'clock at night, and told me she had no present 



A BURIAL. 273 

for me. "I must make fidelity advantageous to 
the St. Pierre," said she ; " if I attempt to make 
it advantageous to you, there will arise misunder- 
standing between us — perhaps separation. One 
thing, however, I can do to please you — leave you 
alone with your liberty : c'est ce que je ferai." 

She kept her word. Every slight shackle she 
had ever laid on me, she, from that time, with quiet 
hand removed. Thus I had pleasure in voluntarily 
respecting her rules ; gratification in devoting 
double time, in taking double pains with the pupils 
she committed to my charge. 

As to Mary de Bassompierre, I visited her with 
pleasure, though I would not live with her. My 
visits soon taught me that it was unlikely even my 
occasional and voluntary society would long be 
indispensable to her. M. de Bassompierre, for his 
part, seemed impervious to this conjecture, blind 
to this possibility ; unconscious as any child to the 
signs, the likelihoods, the fitful beginnings of what, 
when it drew to an end, he might not approve. 

Whether or not, he would cordially approve, I 
used to speculate. Difficult to say. He was much 
taken up with scientific interests ; keen, intent, and 
somewhat oppugnant in what concerned his fa- 

YOL. II. T 



274 VILLETTE. 

vourite pursuits, but unsuspicious and trustful in 
the ordinary affairs of life. From all I could gather, 
he seemed to regard his " daughterling" as still but 
a child, and probably had not yet admitted the 
notion that others might look on her in a different 
light : he would speak of what should be done when 
" Polly" was a woman, when she should be grown 
up ; and " Polly," standing beside his chair, would 
sometimes smile and take his honoured head be- 
tween her little hands, and kiss his iron-gray locks ; 
and, at other times, she would pout and toss her 
curls : but she never said, " Papa, I am grown up." 

She had different moods for different people. 
With her father she really was still a child, or 
child-like, affectionate, merry, and playful. With 
me she was serious, and as womanly as thought 
and feeling could make her. With Mrs. Bretton 
she was docile and reliant, but not expansive. With 
Graham she was shy, at present very shy; at 
moments she tried to be cold; on occasion she en- 
deavoured to shun him. His step made her start ; 
his entrance hushed her ; when he spoke, her 
answers failed of fluency ; when he took leave, she 
remained self-vexed and disconcerted. Even her 
father noticed this demeanour in her. 



A BURIAL. 275 

" My little Polly," lie said once, " you live too 
retired a life; if you grow to be a woman with 
these shy manners, you will hardly be fitted for 
society. You really make quite a stranger of Dr. 
Eretton: how is this? Don't you remember that, 
as a little girl, you used to be rather partial to 
him." 

" Rather, papa," echoed she, with her slightly dry, 
yet gentle and simple tone. 

" And you don't like him now? What has he 
done?" 

" Nothing. Y-e-s, I like him a little; but we 
are grown strange to each other." 

" Then rub it off, Polly : rub the rust and the 
strangeness off. Talk away when he is here, and 
have no fear of him ! " 

" He does not talk much. Is he afraid of me, do 
you think, papa?" 

" Oh, to be sure ! AVhat man would not be afraid 
of such a little silent lady ? " 

" Then tell him some day not to mind my being 
silent. Say that it is my way, and that I have no 
unfriendly intention." 

" Your way, you little chatter-box? So far 
from being your way, it is only your whim ! " 



276 VILLETTE. 

" Well, I'll improve, papa." 

And very pretty was the grace with which, the 
next day, she tried to keep her word. I saw her 
make the effort to converse affably with Dr. John 
on general topics. The attention called jnto her 
guest's face a pleasurable glow; he met her with 
caution, and replied to her in his softest tones, as 
if there was a kind of gossamer happiness hanging 
in the air which he feared to disturb by drawing 
too deep a breath. Certainly, in her timid yet 
earnest advance to friendship, it could not be 
denied that there was a most exquisite and fairy 
charm. 

When the Doctor was gone, she approached her 
father's chair. 

" Did I keep my word, papa ? Did I behave 
better?" 

" My Polly behaved like a queen. I shall be- 
come quite proud of her if this improvement con- 
tinues. By and by we shall see her receiving my 
guests with quite a calm, grand manner. Miss 
Lucy and I will have to look about us, and polish 
up all our best airs and graces lest we should be 
thrown into the sl:ade. Still, Polly, there is a 
little flutter, a little tendency to stammer now 



A BURIAL. 277 

and then, and even to lisp as you lisped when you 
were six years old." 

" No, papa," interrupted she, indignantly, " that 
can't be true." 

" I appeal to Miss Lucy. Did she not, in answer- 
ing Dr. Bretton's question as to whether she had 
ever seen the palace of the Prince of Bois l'Etang, 
say 'yeth,' she had been there ( theveral' times." 

" Papa, you are satirical, you are mechant ! I 
can pronounce all the letters of the alphabet as 
clearly as you can. But tell me this : you are very 
particular in making me be civil to Dr. Bretton, do 
you like him yourself?" 

"To be sure : for old acquaintance sake I like 
him : then he is a very good son to his mother ; be- 
sides beino; a kind-hearted fellow and clever in his 
profession : yes, the callant is well enough." 

" Callant ! Ah, Scotchman ! Papa, is it the 
Edinburgh or the Aberdeen accent you have 1 " 

" Both, my pet, both ; and doubtless the Glaswe- 
gian into the bargain : it is that which enables me 
to speak French so well: a gude Scots tongue 
always succeeds well at the French." 

"The French! Scotch again: incorrigible, papa! 
You, too, need schooling." 



278 VILLETTE. 

" Well, Polly, you must persuade Miss Snowe to 
undertake both you and me ; to make you steady 
and womanly, and me refined and classical." 

The light in which M. de Bassompierre evidently 
regarded " Miss Snowe/' used to occasion me much 
inward edification. What contradictory attributes of 
character we sometimes find ascribed to us, according 
to the eye with which we are viewed ! Madame Beck 
esteemed me learned and blue ; Miss Fanshawe, 
caustic, ironic, and cynical ; Mr. Home, a model 
teacher, the essence of the sedate and discreet : 
somewhat conventional perhaps, too strict, limited 
and scrupulous, but still the pink and pattern of 
governess-correctness ; whilst another person, Pro- 
fessor Paul Emanuel, to wit, never lost an oppor- 
tunity of intimating his opinion that mine was 
rather a fiery and rash nature — adventurous, indocile, 
and audacious. I smiled at them all. If any one 
knew me it was little Paulina Mary. 

As I would not be Paulina's nominal and paid 
companion, genial and harmonious as I began to find 
her intercourse, she persuaded me to join her in 
some study, as a regular and settled means of sus- 
taining communication : she proposed the German 
language, which, like myself, she found difficult of 



A BURIAL. 279 

mastery. We agreed to take our lessons in the Hue 
Crecy of the same mistress ; this arrangement threw 
us together for some hours of every week. M. de 
Bassompierre seemed quite pleased : it perfectly met 
his approbation that Madame Minerva Gravity 
should associate a portion of her leisure with that 
of his fair and dear child. 

That other self-elected judge of mine, the pro- 
fessor in the Rue Fossette, discovering by some 
surreptitious, spying means, that I was no longer 
so stationary as hitherto, but went out regularly at 
certain hours of certain days, took it upon himself 
to place me under surveillance. People said M. 
Emanuel had been brought up amongst Jesuits. I 
should more readily have accredited this report had 
his manoeuvres been better masked. As it was I 
doubted it. Never was a more undisguised schemer, 
a franker, looser intriguer. He would analyze his 
own machinations : elaborately contrive plots, and 
forthwith indulge in explanatory boasts of their 
skill, I know not whether I was more amused or 
provoked, by his stepping up to me one morning and 
whispering solemnly that he " had his eye on me : 
he at least would discharge the duty of a friend and 
not leave me entirely to my own devices. My pro- 



280 VILLETTE. 

ceedings seemed at present very unsettled : he did 
not know what to make of them : he thought his 
cousin Beck very much to blame in suffering this 
sort of fluttering inconsistency in a teacher attached 
to her house. What had a person devoted to a 
serious calling, that of education, to do with Counts 
and Countesses, hotels and chateaux ? To him, I 
seemed altogether i en l'air.* On his faith, he be- 
lieved I went out six days in the seven." 

I said, " Monsieur exaggerated. I certainly had 
enjoyed the advantage of a little change lately, but 
not before it had become necessary ; and the privilege 
was by no means exercised in excess." 

" Necessary ! How was it necessary ? I was 
well enough, he supposed ? Change necessary ! He 
would recommend me to look at the Catholic ( reli- 
gieuses,' and study their lives. They asked no change." 

I am no judge of what expression crossed my face 
when he thus spoke, but it was one which provoked 
him : he accused me of being reckless, worldly, and 
epicurean; ambitious of greatness and feverishly 
athirst for the pomps and vanities of life. It seems I 
had no " devouement," no " recueillement" in my 
character ; no spirit of grace, faith, sacrifice, or self- 
abasement. Feeling the inutility of answering these 



A BURIAL. 281 

charges, I mutely continued the correction of a pile 
of English exercises. 

" He could see in me nothing Christian : like 
many other Protestants, I revelled in the pride and 
self-will of paganism." 

I slightly turned from him, nestling still closer 
under the wing of silence. 

A vague sound grumbled between his teeth; it 
could not surely be a "juron:" he was too religious 
for that ; but I am certain I heard the word sacre. 
Grievous to relate, the same word was repeated, 
with the unequivocal addition of mille something, 
when I passed him about two hours afterwards 
in the corridor, prepared to go and take my German 
lesson in the Rue Crecy. Never was a better 
little man, in some points, than M. Paul : never, 
in others, a more waspish little despot. 



Our German mistress, Fraulein Anna Braun, was 
a worthy, hearty woman, of about forty-five; she 
ought, perhaps, to have lived in the days of Queen 
Elizabeth, as she habitually consumed, for her first 
and second breakfasts, beer and beef: also, her 
direct and downright Deutsch nature seemed to 



282 VILLETTE. 

suffer a sensation of cruel restraint from what she 
called our English reserve; though we thought 
we were very cordial with her : but we did not slap 
her on the shoulder, and if we consented to kiss 
her cheek, it was done quietly, and without any 
explosive smack. These omissions oppressed and 
depressed her considerably; still, on the whole, we 
got on very well. Accustomed to instruct foreign 
girls, who hardly ever will think and study for 
themselves — who have no idea of grappling with a 
difficulty, and overcoming it by dint of reflection 
or application — our progress, which, in truth, was 
very leisurely, seemed to astound her. In her eyes, 
we were a pair of glacial prodigies, cold, proud, 
and preternatural. 

The young Countess was a little proud, a little 
fastidious : and perhaps, with her native delicacy and 
beauty, she had a right to these feelings ; but I think 
it was a total mistake to ascribe them to me. I 
never evaded the morning salute, which Paulina 
would slip when she could; nor was a certain little 
manner of still disdain a weapon known in my 
armoury of defence ; whereas, Paulina always kept 
it clear, fine and bright, and any rough German 
sally called forth at once its steely glisten. 



A BURIAL. 283 

Honest Anna Braun, in some measure, felt this 
difference; and while she half- feared, half- wor- 
shipped Paulina, as a sort of dainty nymph — an 
Undine — she took refuge with me, as a being all 
mortal, and of easier mood. 

A book we liked well to read and translate was 
Schiller's Ballads; Paulina soon learned to read 
them beautifully : the Fraiilein would listen to her 
with a broad smile of pleasure, and say her voice 
sounded like music. She translated them too with 
a facile flow of language, and in a strain of kindred 
and poetic fervour : her cheek would flush, her lips 
tremblingly smile, her beauteous eyes kindle or 
melt as she went on. She learnt the best by heart, 
and would often recite them when we were alone 
together. One she liked well was " Des Madchens 
Klage:" that is, she liked well to repeat the words, 
she found plaintive melody in the sound ; the sense 
she would criticise. She murmured, as we sat over 
the fire one evening : — 

" Du Heilige, rufe dein kind zuruck, 
Ich habe genossen das irdische Gluck, 
Ich habe gelebt und geliebet ! " 

" Lived and loved ! " said she, i{ is that the 



284 VILLETTE. 

summit of earthly happiness, the end of life — to 
love ? I don't think it is. It may be the extreme 
of mortal misery, it may be sheer waste of time, 
and fruitless torture of feeling. If Schiller had said 
to be loved — he might have come nearer the truth. 
Is not that another thing, Lucy, to be loved ? 

" I suppose it may be : but why consider the sub- 
ject ? What is love to you ? What do you know 
about it ? " 

She crimsoned, half in irritation, half in shame. 

" Now, Lucy," she said, " I won't take that from 
you. It may be well for papa to look on me as a 
baby : I rather prefer that he should thus view me ; 
but you know and shall learn to acknowledge that 
I am verging on my nineteenth year." 

" No matter if it were your twenty-ninth ; we 
will anticipate no feelings by discussion and con- 
versation : we will not talk about love." 

" Indeed, indeed ! " said she — all in hurry and 
heat — " you may think to check and hold me in, as 
much as you please ; but I have talked about it, and 
heard about it too ; and a great deal and lately, and 
disagreeably and detrimentally : and in a way you 
wouldn't approve." 

And the vexed, triumphant, pretty, naughty 



A BURIAL. 285 

being laughed. I could not discern what she meant, 
and I would not ask her : I was nonplussed. See- 
ing, however, the utmost innocence in her coun- 
tenance — combined with some transient perverse- 
ness and petulance — I said at last, — 

ee Who talks to you disagreeably and detri- 
mentally on such matters? Who that has near 
access to you would dare to do it ? " 

" Lucy," replied she more softly, " it is a person 
who makes me miserable sometimes ; and I wish she 
would keep away — I don't want her." 

" But who, Paulina, can it be ? You puzzle me 
much." 

" It is — it is my cousin Ginevra. Every time 
she has leave to visit Mrs. Cholmondeley she calls 
here, and whenever she finds me alone she begins 
to talk about her admirers. Love, indeed ! You 
should hear all she has to say about love." 

" Oh, I have heard it," said I, quite coolly ; " and 
on the whole, perhaps, it is as well you should have 
heard it too : it is not be regretted, it is all right. 
Yet surely, Ginevra's mind cannot influence yours. 
You can look over both her head and her heart." 

" She does influence me very much. She has the 
art of disturbing my happiness and unsettling my 



286 VILLETTE. 

opinions. She hurts me through the feelings and 
people dearest to me." 

" What does she say, Paulina ? Give me some 
idea. There may be counteraction of the damage 
done." 

" The people I have longest and most esteemed 
are degraded by her. She does not spare Mrs. 
Bretton — she does not spare .... Graham." 

" No, I dare say : and how does she mix up these 
with her sentiment and her .... love ? She does 
mix them, I suppose ? " 

" Lucy, she is insolent ; and I believe, false. You 
know Dr. Bretton. We both know him. He 
may be careless and proud ; but when was he ever 
mean or slavish ? Day after day she shows him to 
me kneeling at her feet, pursuing her like her 
shadow. She — repulsing him with insult, and he 
imploring her with infatuation. Lucy, is it true? 
Is any of it true ? " 

" It may be true that he once thought her hand- 
some: does she give him out as still her suitor?" 

" She says she might marry him any day: he 
only waits her consent." 

" It is these tales which have caused that reserve 
in your maimer towards Graham which your father 
noticed." 



A BURIAL. 287 

" They have certainly made me all doubtful about 
his character. As Ginevra speaks, they do not 
carry with them the sound of unmixed truth: I 
believe she exaggerates — perhaps invents — but I 
want to know how far." 

<e Suppose we bring Miss Fanshawe to some proof. 
Give her an opportunity of displaying the power she 
boasts." 

" I could do that to-morrow. Papa has asked 
some gentlemen to dinner, all savants. Graham 
who, papa is beginning to discover, is a savant, 
too — skilled, they say, in more than one branch 
of science — is among the number. Now I should 
be miserable to sit at table unsupported, amidst such 

a party. I could not talk to Messieurs A and 

Z , the Parisian academicians : all my new credit 

for manner would be put in peril. You and Mrs. 
Bretton must come for my sake; Ginevra, at a 
word, will join you." 

" Yes ; then I will carry a message of invitation, 
and she shall have the chance of justifying her cha- 
racter for veracity." 



288 VILLETTE. 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 



THE HOTEL CRECY. 



The morrow turned out a more lively and busy- 
day than we — or than I, at least — had anticipated. 
It seems it was the birthday of one of the young 
princes of Labassecour — the eldest, I think, the 
Due de Dindonneaux — and a general holiday was 
given in his honour at the schools, and especially 
at the principal " Athene e," or college. The youth 
of that institution had also concocted, and were to 
present a loyal address; for which purpose they 
were to be assembled in the public building where 
the yearly examinations were conducted, and the 
prizes distributed. After the ceremony of pre- 
sentation, an oration, or " discours" was to follow 
from one of the professors. 

Several of M. de Bassompierre's friends — the 
savants — bein^ more or less connected with the 



THE HOTEL CKECY. 289 

Athenee, they were expected to attend on this oc- 
casion; together with the worshipful municipality 
of Villette, M. le Chevalier Staas, the burgo- 
master, and the parents and kinsfolk of the 
Athenians in general. M. de Bassompierre was 
engaged by his friends to accompany them; his 
fair daughter would, of course, be of the party, 
and she wrote a little note to Ginevra and my- 
self, bidding us come early that we might join 
her. 

As Miss Fanshawe and I were dressing in the 
dormitory of the Rue Fossette, she (Miss F.) sud- 
denly burst into a laugh. 

" What now ? " I asked ; for she had suspended 
the operation of arranging her attire, and was gazing 
at me. 

" It seems so odd," she replied, with her usual 
half-honest, half-insolent unreserve, " that you and 
I should now be so much on a level, visiting in 
the same sphere ; having the same connections." 

" Why yes," said I ; " I had not much respect 
for the connections you chiefly frequented awhile 
ago : Mrs. Cholmondeley and Co. would never have 
suited me at all." 

"Who are you, Miss Snowe?" she inquired, in 

VOL. II. u 



290 VILLETTE. 

a tone of such undisguised and unsophisticated cu- 
riosity, as made me laugh in my turn. 

(i You used to call yourself a nursery-governess ; 
when you first came here you really had the care 
of the children in this house ; I have seen you 
carry little Georgette in your arms, like a bonne — 
few governesses would have condescended so far — 
and now Madame Beck treats you with more 
courtesy than she treats the Parisienne, St. Pierre ; 
and that proud chit, my cousin, makes you her 
bosom friend ! " 

" Wonderful !" I agreed, much amused at her 
mystification. " Who am I indeed? Perhaps a 
personage in disguise. Pity I don't look the 
character." 

" I wonder you are not more flattered by all this," 
she went on : " you take it with strange composure. 
If you really are the nobody I once thought you, 
you must be a cool hand." 

" The nobody you once thought me ! " I repeated, 
and my face grew a little hot ; but I would not be 
angry : of what importance was a school-girl's crude 
use of the terms nobody and somebody? I con- 
fined myself, therefore, to the remark that I had 
merely met with civility ; and asked " what she saw 



THE HOTEL CEECY. 291 

in civility to throw the recipient into a fever of 
confusion ? " 

" One can't help wondering at some things," she 
persisted. 

" Wondering at marvels of your own manufacture. 
Are you ready at last ? " 

" Yes ; let me take your arm." 

" I would rather not : we will walk side by 
side." 

When she took my arm, she always leaned upon 
me her whole weight; and, as I was not a gentle- 
man, or her lover, I did not like it. 

" There, again !" she cried. " I thought, by offer- 
ing to take your arm, to intimate approbation of 
your dress and general appearance : I meant it as 
a compliment." 

" You did ? You meant, in short, to express 
that you are not ashamed to be seen in the street 
with me? That if Mrs. Cholmondeley should be 
fondling her lap-dog at some window, or Colonel 
de Hamal picking his teeth in a balcony, and should 
catch a glimpse of us, you would not quite blush for 
your companion ? " 

" Yes," said she, with that directness which was 
her best point — which gave an honest plainness to 



292 VILLETTE. 

her very fibs when she told them — which was, in 
short, the salt, the sole preservative ingredient of a 
character otherwise not formed to keep. 

I delegated the trouble of commenting on this 
S( yes" to my countenance ; or rather, my under- lip 
voluntarily anticipated my tongue : of course, reve- 
rence and solemnity were not the feelings expressed 
in the look I gave her. 

" Scornful, sneering creature!" she went on, as 
we crossed a great square, and entered the quiet, 
pleasant park, our nearest way to the Rue Crecy. 
" Nobody in this world was ever such a Turk to 
me as you are ! " 

" You bring it on yourself : let me alone : have 
the sense to be quiet : I will let you alone." 

" As if one could let you alone, when you are so 
peculiar and so mysterious !" 

" The mystery and peculiarity being entirely the 
conception of your own brain — maggots — neither 
more nor less, be so good as to keep them out of 
my sight." 

" But are you anybody?" persevered she, pushing 
her hand, in spite of me, under my arm ; and that 
arm pressed itself with inhospitable closeness against 
my side, by way of keeping out the intruder. 



THE HOTEL CRECY. 293 



" Yes," I said, " I am a rising character : once 
an old lady's companion, then a nursery-governess, 
now a school-teacher/' 

" Do — do tell me who you are ? 1 11 not repeat 
it," she urged, adhering with ludicrous tenacity to 
the wise notion of an incognito she had got hold 
of; and she squeezed the arm of which she had 
now obtained full possession, and coaxed and con- 
jured till I was obliged to pause in the park to 
laugh. Throughout our walk she rang the most 
fanciful changes on this theme; proving, by her ob- 
stinate credulity, or incredulity, her incapacity to 
conceive how any person not bolstered up by birth 
or wealth, not supported by some consciousness of 
name or connection, could maintain an attitude of 
reasonable integrity. As for me, it quite sufficed 
to my mental tranquillity that I was known where 
it imported that known I should be; the rest sat 
on me easily : pedigree, social position, and recondite 
intellectual acquisition, occupied about the same 
space and place in my interests and thoughts ; they 
were my third class lodgers — to whom could be as- 
signed only the small sitting-room and the little back 
bed-room : even if the dining and drawing-rooms 
6tood empty, I never confessed it to them, as think- 



294 VILLETTE. 

ing minor accommodations better suited to their 
circumstances. The world, I soon learned, held a 
different estimate: and I make no doubt, the world 
is very right in its view, yet believe also that I am 
not quite wrong in mine. 

There are people whom a lowered position de- 
grades morally, to whom loss of connection costs 
loss of self-respect : are not these justified in placing 
the highest value on that station and association 
which is their safeguard from debasement ? If a 
man feels that he would become contemptible in his 
own eyes were it generally known that his ancestry 
were simple and not gentle, poor and not rich, 
workers and not capitalists, would it be right 
severely to blame him for keeping these fatal facts 
out of sight — for starting, trembling, quailing at the 
chance w T hich threatens exposure ? The longer we 
live, the more our experience widens ; the less prone 
are we to judge our neighbour's conduct, to question 
the world's wisdom : wherever an accumulation of 
small defences is found, whether surrounding the 
prude's virtue or the man of the world's respec- 
tability, there, be sure, it is needed. 

We reached the Hotel Crecy ; Paulina was ready; 
Mrs. Bretton was with her; and, under her escort 



THE HOTEL CRECY. 295 

and that of M. de Bassompierre, we were soon con- 
ducted to the place of assembly, and seated in good 
seats, at a convenient distance from the Tribune. 
The youth of the Athenee were marshalled before 
us, the municipality and their bourgmestre were in 
places of honour, the young princes, with their 
tutors, occupied a conspicuous position, and the body 
of the building was crowded with the aristocracy and 
first burghers of the town. 

Concerning the identity of the professor by whom 
the " discours" was to be delivered, I had as yet 
entertained neither care nor question. Some vague 
expectation I had that a savant would stand up and 
deliver a formal speech, half dogmatism to the 
Athenians, half-flattery to the princes. 

The Tribune was yet empty when we entered, but 
in ten minutes after it was filled; suddenly, in a 
second of time, a head, chest and arms, grew above 
the crimson desk. This head I knew : its colour, 
shape, port, expression, were familiar both to me and 
Miss Fanshawe ; the blackness and closeness of 
cranium, the amplitude and paleness of brow, the 
blueness and fire of glance, were details so domesti- 
cated in the memory, and so knit with many a 
whimsical association, as almost by this their sud- 



266 VILLETTE. 

den apparition, to tickle fancy to a laugh. Indeed, 
I confess, for my part, I did laugh till I was warm ; 
but then I bent my head, and made my handker- 
chief and a lowered veil the sole confidants of my 
mirth. 

I think I was glad to see M. Paul ; I think it was 
rather pleasant than otherwise, to behold him set up 
there, fierce and frank, dark and candid, testy and 
fearless, as when regnant on his estrade in class. 
His presence was such a surprise : I had not once 
thought of expecting him, though I knew he filled 
the chair of Belles Lettres in the college. With 
him in that Tribune, I felt sure that neither for- 
malism nor flattery would be our doom ; but for what 
was vouchsafed us, for what was poured suddenly, 
rapidly, continuously, on our heads — I own I was 
not prepared. 

He spoke to the princes, the nobles, the magis- 
trates and the burghers, with just the same ease, 
with almost the same pointed, choleric earnestness, 
with which he was wont to harangue the three 
divisions of the Rue Fossette. The collegians he 
addressed, not as school-boys, but as future citizens 
and embryo patriots. The times which have since 
come on Europe had not been foretold yet, and M. 



THE HOTEL CEECY, 297 

Emanuel's spirit seemed new to me. Who would 
have thought the flat and fat soil of Labassecour 
could yield political convictions and national feelings, 
such as were now strongly expressed ? Of the 
bearing of his opinions I need here give no special 
indication ; yet it may be permitted me to say that I 
believed the little man not more earnest than iwht 
in what he said : with all his fire he was severe and 
sensible; he trampled Utopian theories under his 
heel; he rejected wild dreams with scorn; — but, 
when he looked in the face of tyranny — oh, then 
there opened a light in his eye worth seeing ; and 
when he spoke of injustice, his voice gave no uncer- 
tain sound, but reminded me rather of the band- 
trumpet, ringing at twilight from the park. 

I do not think his audience were generally suscep- 
tible of sharing his flame in its purity ; but some of 
the college youth caught fire as he eloquently told 
them what should be their path and endeavour in 
their country's and in Europe's future. They gave 
him a long, loud, ringing cheer, as he concluded : 
with all his fierceness, he was their favourite pro- 
fessor. 

As our party left the Hall, he stood at the 
entrance ; he saw and knew me, and lifted his hat ; 



298 VILLETTE. 

• 

he offered his hand in passing, and uttered the 
words " Que 'en dites vous ? " — question eminently 
characteristic, and reminding me, even in this his 
moment of triumph, of that inquisitive restlessness, 
that absence of what I considered desirable self- 
control, which were amongst his faults. He should 
not have cared just then to ask what I thought, or 
what anybody thought ; but he did care, and he was 
too natural to conceal, too impulsive to repress his 
wish. Well ! if I blamed his over - eagerness, I 
liked his naivete, I would have praised him : I had 
plenty of praise in my heart; but, alas! no words 
on my lips. Who has words at the right moment ? 
I stammered some lame expressions ; but was truly 
glad when other people, coming up with profuse 
congratulations, covered my deficiency by their 
redundancy. 

A gentleman introduced him to M. de Bassom- 
pierre; and the Count, who had likewise been highly 
gratified, asked him to join his friends (for the most 
part M. Emanuel's likewise), and to dine with them 
at the Hotel Crecy. He declined dinner, for he 
was a man always somewhat shy in meeting the 
advances of the wealthy : there was a strength of 
sturdy independence in the stringing of his sinews — 



THE HOTEL CRECY. 299 

not obtrusive, but pleasant enough to discover as 
one advanced in knowledge of his character; he 
promised, however, to step in with his friend, 

M. A , a French Academician, in the course of 

the evening. 

At dinner that day, Ginevra and Paulina each 
looked, in her own way, very beautiful ; the former, 
perhaps, boasted the advantage in material charms, 
but the latter shone pre-eminent for attractions more 
subtle and spiritual : for light and eloquence of eye, 
for grace of mien, for winning variety of expression. 
Ginevra 's dress of deep crimson relieved well her 
light curls, and harmonized with her rose-like bloom. 
Paulina's attire — in fashion close, though faultlessly 
neat, but in texture clear and white — made the 
eye grateful for the delicate life of her complexion, 
for the soft animation of her countenance, for the 
tender depth of her eyes, for the brown shadow 
and bounteous flow of her hair — darker than that 
of her Saxon cousin, as were also her eyebrows, her 
eye-lashes, her full irids, and large mobile pupils. 
Nature having traced all these details slightly, and 
with a careless hand, in Miss Fanshawe's case; 
and in Miss de Bassompierre's, wrought them to 
a high and delicate finish. 



300 VILLETTE. 

Paulina was awed by the savants, but not quite 
to mutism : she conversed modestly, diffidently ; not 
without effort, but with so true a sweetness, so fine 
and penetrating a sense, that her father more than 
once suspended his own discourse to listen, and fixed 
on her an eye of proud delight. It was a polite 

Frenchman, M. Z , a very learned, but quite 

a courtly man, who had drawn her into discourse. 
I was charmed with her French ; it was faultless — 
the structure correct, the idioms true, the accent 
pure ; Ginevra, who had lived half her life on the 
Continent, could do nothing like it : not that words 
ever failed Miss Fanshawe, but real accuracy and 
purity she neither possessed, nor in any number of 
years would acquire. Here, too, M. de Bassom- 
pierre was gratified ; for, on the point of language, 
he was critical. 

Another listener and observer there was ; one 
who, detained by some exigency of his profession, 
had come in late to dinner. Both ladies were 
quietly scanned by Dr. Bretton, at the moment of 
taking his seat at the table ; and that guarded survey 
was more than once renewed. His arrival roused 
Miss Fanshawe, who had hitherto appeared listless : 
she now became smiling and complacent, talked — 



THE HOTEL CRECY. 301 

though what she said was rarely to the purpose — 
or rather, was of a purpose somewhat mortifyingly 
below the standard of the occasion. Her light, 
disconnected prattle might have gratified Graham 
once ; perhaps it pleased him still : perhaps it was 
only fancy which suggested the thought that, while 
his eye was filled and his ear fed, his taste, his 
keen zest, his lively intelligence, were not equally 
consulted and regaled. It is certain that, restless 
and exacting as seemed the demand on his attention, 
he yielded courteously all that was required : his 
manner showed neither pique nor coolness : Ginevra 
was his neighbour, and to her, during dinner, he 
almost exclusively confined his notice. She ap- 
peared satisfied, and passed to the drawing-room 

in very good spirits. 

Yet, no sooner had we reached that place of 
refuge, than she again became flat and listless : 
throwing herself on a couch, she denounced both 
the "discours" and the dinner as stupid affairs, and 
inquired of her cousin how she could hear such a 
set of prosaic "gros-bonnets" as her father gathered 
about him. The moment the gentlemen were heard 
to move, her railings ceased : she started up, flew to 
the piano, and dashed at it with spirit. Dr. Bretton 



302 VILLETTE. 

entering, one of the first, took up his station beside 
her. I thought he would not long maintain that 
post : there was a position near the hearth to which 
I expected to see him attracted : this position he 
only scanned with his eye ; while he looked, others 
drew in. The grace and mind of Paulina charmed 
these thoughtful Frenchmen : the fineness of her 
beauty, the soft courtesy of her manner, her imma- 
ture, but real and inbred tact, pleased their national 
taste ; they clustered about her, not indeed to talk 
science, which would have rendered her dumb, but 
to touch on many subjects in letters, in arts, in 
actual life, on which it soon appeared that she had 
both read and reflected. I listened. I am sure 
that though Graham stood aloof, he listened too : 
his hearing as well as his vision was very fine, 
quick, discriminating. I knew he gathered the con- 
versation ; I felt that the mode in which it was 
sustained suited him exquisitely — pleased him 
almost to pain. 

In Paulina there was more force, both of feeliner 
and character, than most people thought — than 
Graham himself imagined — than she would ever 
show to those who did not wish to see it. To speak 
truth, reader, there is no excellent beauty, no 



THE HOTEL CRECY. 303 

accomplished grace, no reliable refinement, without 
strength as excellent, as complete, as trustworthy. 
As well might you look for good fruit and blossom 
on a rootless and sapless tree, as for charms that 
will endure in a feeble and relaxed nature. For a 
little while, the blooming semblance of beauty may 
flourish round weakness ; but it cannot bear a blast : 
it soon fades, even in serenest sunshine. Graham 
would have started had any suggestive spirit whis- 
pered of the sinew and the stamina sustaining that 
delicate nature; but I, who had known her as a 
child, knew, or guessed, by what a good and strong 
root her graces held to the firm soil of reality. 

While Dr. Bretton listened, and waited an open- 
ing in the magic circle, his glance, restlessly 
sweeping the room at intervals, lighted by chance 
on me ; where I sat in a quiet nook not far from 
my godmother and M. de Bassompierre, who, as 
usual, were engaged in what Mr. Home called "a 
two-handed crack:" what the Count would have 
interpreted as a tete-a-tete. Graham smiled recog- 
nition, crossed the room, asked me how I was, told 
me I looked pale. I also had my own smile at my 
own thought : it was now about three months since 
Dr. John had spoken to me — a lapse of which he 



304 VILLETTE. 

was not even conscious. He sat down, and became 
silent. His wish was rather to look than converse. 
Ginevra and Paulina were now opposite to him : he 
could gaze his fill : he surveyed both forms — studied 
both faces. 

Several new guests, ladies as well as gentlemen, 
had entered the room since dinner, dropping in for 
the evening conversation ; and amongst the gentle- 
men, I may incidentally observe, I had already 
noticed by glimpses, a severe, dark professoral out- 
line, hovering aloof in an inner saloon, seen only in 
vista. M. Emanuel knew many of the gentlemen 
present, but I think was a stranger to most of the 
ladies, excepting myself; in looking towards the 
hearth, he could not but see me, and naturally made 
a movement to approach; seeing, however, Dr. 
Bretton also, he changed his mind and held back. 
If that had been all, there would have been no cause 
for quarrel ; but not satisfied with holding back, he 
puckered up his eye -brows, protruded his lip, and 
looked so ugly that I averted my eyes from the dis- 
pleasing spectacle. M. Joseph Emanuel had arrived, 
as well as his austere brother, and at this very 
moment was relieving Ginevra at the piano. What 
a master-touch succeeded her school-girl jingle ! In 



THE HOTEL CRECY. 306 

what grand, grateful tones the instrument acknow- 
ledged the hand of the true artist ! 

" Lucy," began Dr. Bretton, breaking silence and 
smiling, as Ginevra glided before him, casting a 
glance as she passed by, " Miss Fanshawe is certainly 
a fine girl." 

Of course I assented. 

" Is there," he pursued, " another in the room as 
lovely ? " 

" I think there is not another as handsome." 

" I agree with you, Lucy : you and I do often 
agree in opinion, in taste, I think ; or at least in 
judgment." 

"Do we?" I said, somewhat doubtfully. 

" I believe if you had been a boy, Lucy, instead 
of a girl — my mother's god-son instead of her god- 
daughter — we should have been good friends : our 
opinions would have melted into each other." 

He had assumed a bantering air : a light, half- 
caressing half-ironic, shone aslant in his eye. Ah, 
Graham ! I have given more than one solitary 
moment to thoughts and calculations of your estimate 
of Lucy Snowe : was it always kind or just? Had 
Lucy been intrinsically the same, but possessing the 
additional advantages of wealth and station, would 

VOL. II. X 



306 VILLETTE. 

your manner to her, your value for her have been 
quite what they actually were ? And yet by 
these questions I would not seriously infer blame. 
No ; you might sadden and trouble me sometimes ; 
but then mine was a soon - depressed, an easily- 
deranged temperament — it fell if a cloud crossed 
the sun. Perhaps before the eye of severe equity, 
I should stand more at fault than you. 

Trying then to keep down the unreasonable pain 
which thrilled my heart, on thus being made to feel 
that while Graham could devote to others the most 
grave and earnest, the manliest interest, he had no 
more than light raillery for Lucy, the friend of lang 
syne, I inquired calmly, — 

ce On what points are we so closely in accord- 
ance ? " 

" We each have an observant faculty. You, 
perhaps, don't give me credit for the possession ; yet 
I have it." 

'• But you were speaking of tastes : we may see 
the same objects, yet estimate them differently ? " 

Ci Let us bring it to the test. Of course, you 
cannot but render homage to the merits of Miss 
Fanshawe : now, what do you think of others in the 
room ? — my mother, for instance ; or the lions, 



THE HOTEL CRECY. 307 

yonder, Messieurs A and Z ; or, let us 

say, that pale little lady, Miss de Bassompierre?" 

" You know what I think of your mother. I have 
not thought of Messieurs A and Z ." 

" And the other?" 



a 



I think she is, as you say* a pale little lady — 
pale, certainly, just now, when she is fatigued with 
over-excitement." 

" You don't remember her as a child ? " 
" I wonder, sometimes, whether you do?" 
" I had forgotten her ; but it is noticeable, that cir- 
cumstances, persons, even words and looks, that had 
slipped your memory, may, under certain conditions, 
certain aspects of your own or another's mind, revive." 
" That is possible enough." 

" Yet," he continued, " the revival is imperfect — 
needs confirmation, partakes so much of the dim 
character of a dream, or of the airy one of a fancy, 
that the testimony of a witness becomes necessary 
for corroboration. Were you not a guest at Bretton 
ten years ago, when Mr. Home brought his little 
girl, whom we then called ( little Polly,' to stay with 
mama?" 

" I was there the night she came, and also the 
morning she went away." 



308 VILLETTE. 

" Rather a peculiar child ; was she not ? I 
wonder how I treated her. Was I fond of children 
in those days ? Was there anything gracious or 
kindly about me — great, reckless, school-boy as I 
was ? But you don't recollect me, of course ?" 

" You have seen your own picture at La Terrasse. 
It is like you personally. In manner, you were 
almost the same yesterday as to~day." 

" But, Lucy, how is that? Such an oracle really 
whets my curiosity. What am I to-day ? What was 
I the yesterday of ten years back ?" 

" Gracious to whatever pleased you — unkindly or 
cruel to nothing." 

" There you are wrong ; I think I was almost a 
brute to you, for instance." 

" A brute ! No, Graham : I should never have 
patiently endured brutality." 

(e This, however, I do remember : quiet Lucy 
Snowe tasted nothing of my grace." 

" As little of your cruelty." 

" Why, had I been Nero himself, I could not 
have tormented a being inoffensive as a shadow." 

" I smiled ; but I also hushed a groan. Oh ! — I 
wished he would just let me alone — cease allusion 
to me. These epithets — these attributes I put from 



THE HOTEL CRECY. 309 

me. His " quiet Lucy Snowe," his " inoffensive 
shadow," I gave him back ; not with scorn, but with 
extreme weariness : theirs was the coldness and the 
pressure of lead ; let him whelm me with no such 
weight. Happily, he was soon on another theme. 

" On what terms were ' little Polly ' and I ? 
Unless my recollections deceive me, we were not 

foes " 

" You speak very vaguely. Do you think little 
Polly's memory not more definite ? " 

" Oh! we don't talk of ' little Polly' note. Pray 
say, Miss de Bassompierre ; and, of course, such a 
stately personage remembers nothing of Bretton. 
Look at her large eyes, Lucy ; can they read a word 
in the page of memory ? Are they the same which 
I used to direct to a horn-book? She does not 
know that I partly taught her to read." 
** In the Bible on Sunday nights ?" 
" She has a calm, delicate, rather fine profile 
now: once what a little restless, anxious coun- 
tenance was hers ! What a thing is a child's pre- 
ference — what a bubble! Would you believe it? 
that lady was fond of me ! " 

" I think she was in some measure fond of you," 
said I, moderately. 



310 YILLETTE. 

" You don't remember then ? / had forgotten ; 
but I remember now. She liked me the best of 
whatever there was at Bretton." 

" You thought so." 

" I quite well recall it. I wish I could tell her 
all I recall; or rather, I wish some one, you for 
instance, would go behind and whisper it all in her 
ear, and I could have the delight — here, as I sit — of 
watching her look under the intelligence. Could 
you manage that, think you, Lucy, and make me 
ever grateful ? " 

" Could I manage to make you ever grateful?" 
said L u No, / could not." And I felt my fingers 
work and my hands interlock : I felt, too, an inward 
courage, warm and resistant. In this matter I was 
not disposed to gratify Dr. John : not at all. With 
now welcome force, I realized his entire misappre- 
hension of my character and nature. He wanted 
always to give me a role not mine. Nature and 
I opposed him. He did not at all guess what I 
felt : he did not read my eyes, or face, or gestures ; 
though, I doubt not, all spoke. Leaning towards 
me coaxingly, he said, softly, "Do content me, 

Lucy." 

And I would have contented, or, at least, I would 



THE HOTEL CEECY. 311 

clearly have enlightened him, and taught him well 
never again to expect of me the part of officious 
soubrette in a love drama ; when, following his soft, 
eager murmur, meeting almost his pleading, mellow 
— " Do content me, Lucy!" — a sharp hiss pierced 
my ear on the other side. 

"Petite chatte, doucerette, coquette!" sibillated 
the sudden boa-constrictor ; " vous avez l'air bien 
triste, soumise, reveuse, mais vous ne l'etes pas ; c'est 
moi qui vous le dis : Sauvage ! la flamme a Tame, 
l'eclair aux yeux ! " 

(e Oui; j'ai la flamme a Tame, et je dois l'avoir!" 
retorted I, turning in just wrath ; but Professor 
Emanuel had hissed his insult and was gone. 

CD 

The worst of the matter was, that Dr. Bretton, 
whose ears, as I have said, were quick and fine, 
caught every word of this apostrophe; he put his 
handkerchief to his face and laughed till he shook. 

" Well done, Lucy," cried he ; " capital ! petite 
chatte, petite coquette ! Oh, I must tell my mother ! 
Is it true, Lucy, or half-true ? I believe it is : you 
redden to the colour of Miss Fanshawe's gown. 
And really, by my word, now I examine him, that 
is the same little man who was so savage with you 
at the concert: the very same, and in his soul he 



312 VILLETTE. 

is frantic at this moment because he sees me laugh- 
ing. Oh ! I must tease him." 

And Graham, yielding to his bent for mischief, 
laughed, jested, and whispered on till I could bear 
no more, and my eyes filled. 

Suddenly he was sobered: a vacant space ap- 
peared near Miss de Bassompierre ; the circle sur- 
rounding her seemed about to dissolve. This move- 
ment was instantly caught by Graham's eye — ever- 
vigilant, even while laughing ; he rose, took his 
courage in both hands, crossed the room, and made 
the advantage his own. Dr. John, throughout his 
whole life, was a man of luck — a man of success. 
And why? Because he had the eye to see his 
opportunity, the heart to prompt to well-timed 
action, the nerve to consummate a perfect work. 
And no tyrant-passion dragged him back; no en- 
thusiasms, no foibles encumbered his way. How 
well he looked at this very moment ! When Paulina 
looked up as he reached her side, her glance mingled 
at once with an encountering glance, animated, yet 
modest ; his colour, as he spoke to her, became half 
a blush, half a glow. He stood in her presence 
brave and bashful: subdued and unobtrusive, yet 
decided in his purpose and devoted in his ardour. 



THE HOTEL CRECY. 313 

I gathered all this by one view. I did not prolong 
my observation — time failed me, had inclination 
served : the night wore late ; Ginevra and I ought 
already to have been in the Rue Fossette. I rose, 
aod bade good- night to my godmother and M. de 
Bassompierre. 

I know not whether Professor Emanuel had no- 
ticed my reluctant acceptance of Dr. Bretton's 
badinage, or whether he perceived that I was pained, 
and that, on the whole, the evening had not been 
one flow of exultant enjoyment for the volatile, 
pleasure-loving, Mademoiselle Lucie ; but, as I was 
leaving the room, he stepped up and inquired 
whether I had any one to attend me to the Rue 
Fossette. The professor now spoke politely, and 
even deferentially, and he looked apologetic and 
repentant; but I could not recognise his civility 
at a word, nor meet his contrition with crude, 
premature oblivion. Never hitherto had I felt 
seriously disposed to resent his brusqueries, or freeze 
before his fierceness; what he had said to-night, 
however, I considered unwarranted : my extreme 
disapprobation of the proceeding must be marked, 
however slightly. I merely said: — 

" I am provided with attendance." 



314 VILLETTE. 

Which was true, as Ginevra and I were to be 
sent home in the carriage ; and I passed him with 
the sliding obeisance with which he was wont to be 
saluted in classe by pupils crossing his estrade. 

Having sought my shawl I returned to the vesti- 
bule. M. Emanuel stood there as if waiting. He 
observed that the night was fine. 

" Is it ? " I said, with a tone and manner 
whose consummate chariness and frostiness I could 
not but applaud. It was so seldom I could pro- 
perly act out my own resolution to be reserved 
and cool where I had been grieved or hurt, that 
I felt almost proud of this one successful effort. 
That K Is it ? " sounded just like the manner of 
other people. I had heard hundreds of such little 
minced, docked, dry phrases, from the pursed-up 
coral lips of a score of self-possessed, self-sufficing 
misses and mesdemoiselles. That M. Paul would 
Bot stand any prolonged experience of this sort of 
dialogue I knew ; but he certainly merited a sam- 
ple of the curt and arid. I believe he thought so 
himself, for he took the dose quietly. He looked 
at my shawl and objected to its lightness. I 
decidedly told him it was as heavy as I wished. 
Keceding aloof, and standing apart, I leaned on 



THE HOTEL CKECY. 315 

the banister of the stairs, folded my shawl about 
me, and fixed my eyes on a dreary religious paint- 
ing darkening the wall. 

Ginevra was long in coming : tedious seemed her 
loitering. M. Paul was still there, my ear expected 
from his lips an angry tone. He came nearer. 
" Now for another hiss ! " thought I : had not the 
action been too uncivil I could have stopped my 
ears with my fingers in terror of the thrill. Nothing 
happens as we expect : listen for a coo or a mur- 
mur ; it is then you will hear a cry of prey or pain. 
Await a piercing shriek, an angry threat, and wel- 
come an amicable greeting, a low kind whisper. 
M. Paul spoke gently : — 

" Friends," said he, " do not quarrel for a word. 
Tell me, was it I or ce grand fat d' Anglais " (so he 
profanely denominated Dr. Bretton), " who made 
your eyes so humid, and your cheeks so hot as they 
are even now ? " 

" I am not conscious of you, monsieur, or of any 
other having excited such emotion as you indicate," 
was my answer ; and in giving it, I again surpassed 
my usual self, and achieved a neat, frosty false- 
hood. 

" But what did I say ? " he pursued, " tell me : 



316 VILLETTE. 

I was angry : I have forgotten my words ; what 
were they." 

"Such as it is best to forget !" said I, still quite 
calm and chill. 

" Then it was my words which wounded you ? 
Consider them unsaid : permit my retractation ; 
accord my pardon." 

" I am not angry, monsieur." 

" Then you are worse than angry — grieved. For- 
give me, Miss Lucy." 

" M. Emanuel, I do forgive you." 

" Let me hear you say, in the voice natural to 
you, and not in that alien tone, ' Mon ami, je vous 
pardonne.' " 

He made me smile. Who could help smiling at 
his wistfulness, his simplicity, his earnestness? 

"Bon!" he cried ; "Voila que le jour va poindre ! 
Dites done, mon ami." 

" Monsieur Paul, je vous pardonne." 

" I will have no monsieur : speak the other word, 
or I shall not believe you sincere : another effort — 
mon ami, or else in English, — my friend !" 

Now, " my friend " had rather another sound and 
significancy than " mon ami ," it did not breathe the 
same sense of domestic and intimate affection : 



THE HOTEL CRECY. 317 

" mon ami" I could not say to M. Paul; "my 
friend," I could, and did say without difficulty. 
This distinction existed not for him, however, and 
he was quite satisfied with the English phrase. He 
smiled. You should have seen him smile, reader; 
and you should have marked the difference between 
his countenance now, and that he wore half an hour 
ago, I cannot affirm that I had ever witnessed the 
smile of pleasure, or content, or kindness round 
M. Paul's lips, or in his eyes before. The ironic, 
the sarcastic, the disdainful, the passionately exul- 
tant, I had hundreds of times seen him express by 
what he called a smile, but any illuminated sign of 
milder or warmer feeling struck me as wholly new 
in his visage. It changed it as from a mask to 
a face : the deep lines left his features ; the very 
complexion seemed clearer and fresher ; that swart, 
sallow, southern darkness which spoke his Spanish 
blood, became displaced by a lighter hue. I know 
not that I have ever seen in any other human face 
an equal metamorphosis from a similar cause. He 
now took me to the carriage ; at the same moment 
M. de Basso mpierre came out with his niece. 

In a pretty humour was Mistress Fanshawe ; she 
had found the evening a grand failure : completely 



318 VILLETTE. 

upset as to temper, she gave way to the most un- 
controlled moroseness as soon as we were seated, 
and the carriage-door closed. Her invectives against 
Dr. Bretton had something venomous in them. 
Having found herself impotent either to charm or 
sting him, hatred was her only resource ; and this 
hatred she expressed in terms so unmeasured and 
proportion so monstrous, that, after listening for 
a while with assumed stoicism, my outraged sense 
of justice at last and suddenly caught fire. An 
explosion ensued : for I could be passionate, too ; 
especially with my present fair but faulty associate, 
who never failed to stir the worst dregs of me. It 
was well that the carriage-wheels made a tremendous 
rattle over the flinty Choseville pavement, for I can 
assure the reader there was neither dead silence nor 
calm discussion within the vehicle. Half in earnest, 
half in seeming, I made it my business to storm 
down Ginevra. She had set out rampant from the 
Rue Crecy ; it was necessary to tame her before we 
reached the Rue Fossette : to this end it was indis- 
pensable to show up her sterling value and high 
deserts ; and this must be done in language of 
which the fidelity and homeliness might challenge 
comparison with the compliments of a John Knox 



THE HOTEL CRECY. 319 

to a Mary Stuart. This was the right discipline for 
Ginevra ; it suited her. I am quite sure she went to 
bed that night all the better and more settled in 
mind and mood, and slept all the more sweetly for 
having undergone a sound moral drubbing. 



END OF VOL. II. 



London : 

Printed by Stewart and Mueray, 

Old Bailey. 













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