M. Paul keeps his Promise

On the first of May we had all—that is, the twenty boarders and the four teachers—notice to rise at five o’clock of the morning, to be dressed and ready by six, to put ourselves under the command of M. le Professeur Emanuel, who was to head our march forth from Villette, for it was on this day he proposed to fulfil his promise of taking us to breakfast in the country. I, indeed, as the reader may perhaps remember, had not had the honour of an invitation when this excursion was first projected—rather the contrary; but on my now making allusion to this fact, and wishing to know how it was to be, my ear received a pull, of which I did not venture to challenge the repetition by raising further difficulties.

“Je vous conseille de vous faire prier,” said M. Emanuel, imperially menacing the other ear. One Napoleonic compliment, however, was enough, so I made up my mind to be of the party.

The morning broke calm as summer, with singing of birds in the garden, and a light dew-mist that promised heat. We all said it would be warm, and we all felt pleasure in folding away heavy garments, and in assuming the attire suiting a sunny season. The clean fresh print dress and the light straw bonnet, each made and trimmed as the French workwoman alone can make and trim, so as to unite the utterly unpretending with the perfectly becoming, was the rule of costume. Nobody flaunted in faded silk; nobody wore a second- hand best article.

At six the bell rang merrily, and we poured down the staircase, through the carré, along the corridor, into the vestibule. There stood our professor, wearing, not his savage-looking paletôt and severe bonnet- grec, but a young-looking belted blouse and cheerful straw hat. He had for us all the kindest good-morrow, and most of us for him had a thanksgiving smile. We were marshalled in order and soon started.

The streets were yet quiet, and the boulevards were fresh and peaceful as fields. I believe we were very happy as we walked along. This chief of ours had the secret of giving a certain impetus to happiness when he would, just as, in an opposite mood, he could give a thrill to fear.

He did not lead nor follow us, but walked along the line, giving a word to every one, talking much to his favourites, and not wholly neglecting even those he disliked. It was rather my wish, for a reason I had, to keep slightly aloof from notice; and being paired with Ginevra Fanshawe, bearing on my arm the dear pressure of that angel’s not unsubstantial limb (she continued in excellent case, and I can assure the reader it was no trifling business to bear the burden of her loveliness; many a time in the course of that warm day I wished to goodness there had been less of the charming commodity)—however, having her, as I said, I tried to make her useful by interposing her always between myself and M. Paul, shifting my place, according as I heard him coming up to the right hand or the left. My private motive for this manœuvre might be traced to the circumstance of the new print dress I wore being pink in colour—a fact which, under our present convoy, made me feel something as I have felt when, clad in a shawl with a red border, necessitated to traverse a meadow where pastured a bull.

For a while the shifting system, together with some modifications in the arrangement of a black silk scarf, answered my purpose; but by-and-by he found out that whether he came to this side or to that, Miss Fanshawe was still his neighbour. The course of acquaintance between Ginevra and him had never run so smooth that his temper did not undergo a certain crisping process whenever he heard her English accent. Nothing in their dispositions fitted; they jarred if they came in contact. He held her empty and affected; she deemed him bearish, meddling, repellent.

At last, when he had changed his place for about the sixth time, finding still the same untoward result to the experiment, he thrust his head forward, settled his eyes on mine, and demanded with impatience,—

“Qu’est ce que c’est? Vous me jouez des tours?”

The words were hardly out of his mouth, however, ere, with his customary quickness, he seized the root of this proceeding. In vain I shook out the long fringe and spread forth the broad end of my scarf. “A—h—h! c’est la robe rose!” broke from his lips, affecting me very much like the sudden and irate low of some lord of the meadow.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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