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 brilliance the paleness of its embroidery, proved it a clear night, though moonless. That I should dare to remain 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 rustling, 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 clangour of the distant door-bell. Lifelike sounds bring lifelike 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 là pour vous au salon.”

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 the 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 régale 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’ll go; I will be ready in ten minutes,” I vowed. And away I flew, never once checked, reader, by the thought which perhaps at this moment checks you—namely, that to go anywhere with Graham and without Mrs. Bretton could be objectionable. 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 unlocked 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 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; impossible to arrange hair or fasten hooks and eyes with such fingers, so I called Rosine 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 accurately—in short, did her work like the neat-handed Phillis she could be when she chose. Having given me my handkerchief and gloves, she took the candle and lighted me downstairs.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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