The Watchguard

M. Paul Emanuel owned an acute sensitiveness to the annoyance of interruption, from whatsoever cause occurring, during his lessons. To pass through the classe under such circumstances was considered by the teachers and pupils of the school, individually and collectively, to be as much as a woman’s or girl’s life was worth.

Madame Beck herself, if forced to the enterprise, would “skurry” through, retrenching her skirts, and carefully coasting the formidable estrade, like a ship dreading breakers. As to Rosine, the portress—on whom, every half-hour, devolved the fearful duty of fetching pupils out of the very heart of one or other of the divisions to take their music-lessons in the oratory, the great or little saloon, the salle à manger, or some other piano-station—she would, upon her second or third attempt, frequently become almost tongue-tied from excess of consternation—a sentiment inspired by the unspeakable looks levelled at her through a pair of dart-dealing spectacles.

One morning I was sitting in the carré, at work upon a piece of embroidery which one of the pupils had commenced but delayed to finish, and while my fingers wrought at the frame, my ears regaled themselves with listening to the crescendos and cadences of a voice haranguing in the neighbouring classe, in tones that waxed momentarily more unquiet, more ominously varied. There was a good strong partition- wall between me and the gathering storm, as well as a facile means of flight through the glass door to the court, in case it swept this way; so I am afraid I derived more amusement than alarm from these thickening symptoms. Poor Rosine was not safe; four times that blessed morning had she made the passage of peril; and now, for the fifth time, it became her dangerous duty to snatch, as it were, a brand from the burning—a pupil from under M. Paul’s nose.

“Mon Dieu! mon Dieu!” cried she. “Que vais-je devenir? Monsieur va me tuer, je suis sure; car il est d’une colère!”

Nerved by the courage of desperation, she opened the door.

“Mademoiselle La Malle au piano!” was her cry. Ere she could make good her retreat, or quite close the door, this voice uttered itself,—

“Dès ce moment!—la classe est défendue. La première qui ouvrira cette porte, ou passera par cette division, sera pendue—fut-ce Madame Beck elle-même!”

Ten minutes had not succeeded the promulgation of this decree when Rosine’s French pantoufles were again heard shuffling along the corridor.

“Mademoiselle,” said she, “I would not for a fivefranc piece go into that classe again just now. Monsieur’s lunettes are really terrible; and here is a commissionaire come with a message from the Athénée. I have told Madame Beck I dare not deliver it, and she says I am to charge you with it.”

“Me? No, that is rather too bad! It is not in my line of duty. Come, come, Rosine! bear your own burden. Be brave—charge once more!”

“I, mademoiselle? Impossible! Five times I have crossed him this day. Madame must really hire a gendarme for this service. Ouf! Je n’en puis plus!”

“Bah! you are only a coward. What is the message?”

“Precisely of the kind with which monsieur least likes to be pestered—an urgent summons to go directly to the Athénée, as there is an official visitor, inspector, I know not what, arrived, and monsieur must meet him. You know how he hates a must.”

Yes, I knew well enough. The restive little man detested spur or curb; against whatever was urgent or obligatory he was sure to revolt. However, I accepted the responsibility—not, certainly, without fear,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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