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-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 worshipped 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 bemoaning 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.

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 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 herself was the soul of discretion, besides having as strong a brain and sound a judgment as ever furnished 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 angry eye, but I read its meaning now. He, I believed, 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 secrecy? Where could a key be a safeguard 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 vermin; 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 dormitory window seat. It was a fine frosty afternoon. The winter sun, already setting, gleamed pale on the tops of the garden shrubs in the allée défendue. 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.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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