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 Duc de Dindonneau, and a general holiday was given in his honour at the schools, and especially at the principal “Athénée,” 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 presentation, an oration, or discours, was to follow from one of the professors.

Several of M. de Bassompierre’s friends—the savants—being more or less connected with the Athénée, they were expected to attend on this occasion, together with the worshipful municipality of Villette, M. le Chevalier Staas, the burgomaster, 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 myself, 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.) suddenly 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 a tone of such undisguised and unsophisticated curiosity as made me laugh in my turn. “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 schoolgirl’s crude use of the terms nobody and somebody? I confined myself, therefore, to the remark that I had merely met with civility, and asked what she saw 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 gentleman, or her lover, I did not like it.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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