The Dryad

The spring was advancing, and the weather had turned suddenly warm. This change of temperature brought with it for me, as probably for many others, temporary decrease of strength. Slight exertion at this time left me overcome with fatigue; sleepless nights entailed languid days.

One Sunday afternoon, having walked the distance of half a league to the Protestant church, I came back weary and exhausted; and taking refuge in my solitary sanctuary, the first classe, I was glad to sit down, and to make of my desk a pillow for my arms and head.

Awhile I listened to the lullaby of bees humming in the berceau, and watched through the glass door and the tender, lightly-strewn spring foliage Madame Beck and a gay party of friends, whom she had entertained that day at dinner after morning mass, walking in the centre alley under orchard boughs dressed at this season in blossom, and wearing a colouring as pure and warm as mountain snow at sunrise.

My principal attraction towards this group of guests lay, I remember, in one figure—that of a handsome young girl whom I had seen before as a visitor at Madame Beck’s, and of whom I had been vaguely told that she was a “filleule,” or god-daughter, of M. Emanuel’s, and that between her mother, or aunt, or some other female relation of hers, and the professor, had existed of old a special friendship. M. Paul was not of the holiday band to-day; but I had seen this young girl with him ere now, and as far as distant observation could enable me to judge, she seemed to enjoy with him the frank ease of a ward with an indulgent guardian. I had seen her run up to him, put her arm through his, and hang upon him. Once, when she did so, a curious sensation had struck through me—a disagreeable anticipatory sensation, one of the family of presentiments, I suppose—but I refused to analyze or dwell upon it. While watching this girl, Mademoiselle Sauveur by name, and following the gleam of her bright silk robe (she was always richly dressed, for she was said to be wealthy) through the flowers and the glancing leaves of tender emerald, my eyes became dazzled—they closed; my lassitude, the warmth of the day, the hum of bees and birds, all lulled me, and at last I slept.

Two hours stole over me. Ere I woke, the sun had declined out of sight behind the towering houses, the garden and the room were gray, bees had gone homeward, and the flowers were closing; the party of guests, too, had vanished; each alley was void.

On waking, I felt much at ease—not chill, as I ought to have been after sitting so still for at least two hours; my cheek and arms were not benumbed by pressure against the hard desk. No wonder. Instead of the bare wood on which I had laid them, I found a thick shawl, carefully folded, substituted for support, and another shawl (both taken from the corridor where such things hung) wrapped warmly round me.

Who had done this? Who was my friend? Which of the teachers? Which of the pupils? None, except St. Pierre, was inimical to me; but which of them had the art, the thought, the habit, of benefiting thus tenderly? Which of them had a step so quiet, a hand so gentle, but I should have heard or felt her, if she had approached or touched me in a day-sleep?

As to Ginevra Fanshawe, that bright young creature was not gentle at all, and would certainly have pulled me out of my chair if she had meddled in the matter. I said at last, “It is Madame Beck’s doing. She has come in, seen me asleep, and thought I might take cold. She considers me a useful machine, answering well the purpose for which it was hired, so would not have me needlessly injured. And now,” methought, “I’ll take a walk. The evening is fresh, and not very chill.”

So I opened the glass door and stepped into the berceau.

I went to my own alley. Had it been dark, or even dusk, I should have hardly ventured there, for I had not yet forgotten the curious illusion of vision (if illusion it were) experienced in that place some months ago. But a ray of the setting sun burnished still the gray crown of Jean Baptiste, nor had all the birds of the garden yet vanished into their nests amongst the tufted shrubs and thick wall-ivy. I paced up and down, thinking almost the same thoughts I had pondered that night when I buried my glass jar—how I

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