attributed to me; I merely asked where the English examination came in—whether at the commencement or close of the day.

“I hesitate,” said he, “whether at the very beginning, before many persons are come, and when your aspiring nature will not be gratified by a large audience, or quite at the close, when everybody is tired, and only a jaded and worn-out attention will be at your service.”

“Que vous êtes dur, monsieur!” I said, affecting dejection.

“One ought to be ‘dur’ with you. You are one of those beings who must be kept down. I know you! I know you! Other people in this house see you pass, and think that a colourless shadow has gone by. As for me, I scrutinized your face once, and it sufficed.”

“You are satisfied that you understand me?”

Without answering directly, he went on, “Were you not gratified when you succeeded in that vaudeville? I watched you and saw a passionate ardour for triumph in your physiognomy. What fire shot into the glance—not mere light, but flame! Je me tins pour averti.”

“What feeling I had on that occasion, monsieur—and pardon me if I say you immensely exaggerate both its quality and quantity—was quite abstract. I did not care for the vaudeville. I hated the part you assigned me. I had not the slightest sympathy with the audience below the stage. They are good people, doubtless, but do I know them? Are they anything to me? Can I care for being brought before their view again to-morrow? Will the examination be anything but a task to me—a task I wish well over?”

“Shall I take it out of your hands?”

“With all my heart, if you do not fear failure.”

“But I should fail. I only know three phrases of English, and a few words; par exemple, de sonn, de mone, de stare. Est ce bien dit? My opinion is that it would be better to give up the thing altogether—to have no English examination, eh?”

“If madame consents, I consent.”


“Very heartily.”

He smoked his cigar in silence. He turned suddenly.

“Donnez-moi la main,” said he, and the spite and jealousy melted out of his face, and a generous kindliness shone there instead.

“Come, we will not be rivals, we will be friends,” he pursued. “The examination shall take place, and I will choose a good moment; and instead of vexing and hindering, as I felt half inclined ten minutes ago (for I have my malevolent moods; I always had from childhood), I will aid you sincerely. After all, you are solitary and a stranger, and have your way to make and your bread to earn; it may be well that you should become known. We will be friends; do you agree?”

“Out of my heart, monsieur. I am glad of a friend. I like that better than a triumph.”

“Pauvrette!” said he, and turned away and left the alley.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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