but fear blent with other sentiments, curiosity amongst them, I opened the door, I entered, I closed it behind me as quickly and quietly as a rather unsteady hand would permit; for to be slow or bustling, to rattle a latch, or leave a door gaping wide, were aggravations of crime often more disastrous in result than the main crime itself. There I stood, then, and there he sat. His humour was visibly bad—almost at its worst. He had been giving a lesson in arithmetic—for he gave lessons on any and every subject that struck his fancy; and arithmetic, being a dry subject, invariably disagreed with him. Not a pupil but trembled when he spoke of figures. He sat bent above his desk. To look up at the sound of an entrance, at the occurrence of a direct breach of his will and law, was an effort he could not for the moment bring himself to make. It was quite as well. I thus gained time to walk up the long classe; and it suited my idiosyncrasy far better to encounter the near burst of anger like his than to bear its menace at a distance.

At his estrade I paused, just in front. Of course, I was not worthy of immediate attention. He proceeded with his lesson. Disdain would not do. He must hear and he must answer my message.

Not being quite tall enough to lift my head over his desk, elevated upon the estrade, and thus suffering eclipse in my present position, I ventured to peep round, with the design, at first, of merely getting a better view of his face, which had struck me when I entered as bearing a close and picturesque resemblance to that of a black and sallow tiger. Twice did I enjoy this side view with impunity, advancing and receding unseen; the third time my eye had scarce dawned beyond the obscuration of the desk, when it was caught and transfixed through its very pupil—transfixed by the lunettes. Rosine was right; these utensils had in them a blank and immutable terror beyond the mobile wrath of the wearer’s own unglazed eyes.

I now found the advantage of proximity. These short-sighted lunettes were useless for the inspection of a criminal under monsieur’s nose; accordingly, he doffed them, and he and I stood on more equal terms.

I am glad I was not really much afraid of him—that, indeed, close in his presence, I felt no terror at all; for upon his demanding cord and gibbet to execute the sentence recently pronounced, I was able to furnish him with a needleful of embroidering thread with such accommodating civility as could not but allay some portion at least of his surplus irritation. Of course I did not parade this courtesy before public view. I merely handed the thread round the angle of the desk, and attached it, ready noosed, to the barred back of the professor’s chair.

“Que me voulez-vous?” said he, in a growl of which the music was wholly confined to his chest and throat, for he kept his teeth clenched, and seemed registering to himself an inward vow that nothing earthly should wring from him a smile. My answer commenced uncompromisingly.

“Monsieur,” I said, “je veux l’impossible, des choses inouies;” and thinking it best not to mince matters, but to administer the douche with decision, in a low but quick voice, I delivered the Athenian message, floridly exaggerating its urgency.

Of course he would not hear a word of it. “He would not go; he would not leave his present class, let all the officials of Villette send for him. He would not put himself an inch out of his way at the bidding of king, cabinet, and chambers together.”

I knew, however, that he must go—that, talk as he would, both his duty and interest commanded an immediate and literal compliance with the summons. I stood, therefore, waiting in silence, as if he had not yet spoken. He asked what more I wanted.

“Only monsieur’s answer to deliver to the commissionaire.”

He waved an impatient negative.

I ventured to stretch my hand to the bonnet-grec which lay in grim repose on the window-sill. He followed this daring movement with his eye, no doubt in mixed pity and amazement at its presumption.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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