Madame Beck called me on Thursday afternoon, and asked whether I had any occupation to hinder me from going into town and executing some little commissions for her at the shops.

Being disengaged, and placing myself at her service, I was presently furnished with a list of the wools, silks, embroidering thread, etcetera, wanted in the pupils’ work; and having equipped myself in a manner suiting the threatening aspect of a cloudy and sultry day, I was just drawing the spring-bolt of the street door, in act to issue forth, when madame’s voice again summoned me to the salle à manger.

“Pardon, Meess Lucie!” cried she, in the seeming haste of an impromptu thought; “I have just recollected one more errand for you, if your good-nature will not deem itself overburdened.”

Of course I “confounded myself” in asseverations to the contrary; and madame, running into the little salon, brought thence a pretty basket, filled with fine hot-house fruit, rosy, perfect, and tempting, reposing amongst the dark green, wax-like leaves and pale yellow stars of I know not what exotic plant.

“There,” she said, “it is not heavy, and will not shame your neat toilet, as if it were a household, servant- like detail. Do me the favour to leave this little basket at the house of Madame Walravens, with my felicitations on her fête. She lives down in the old town, Numéro 3, Rue des Mages. I fear you will find the walk rather long, but you have the whole afternoon before you, and do not hurry. If you are not back in time for dinner, I will order a portion to be saved, or Goton, with whom you are a favourite, will have pleasure in tossing up some trifle for your especial benefit. You shall not be forgotten, ma bonne meess. And, oh! please” (calling me back once more) “be sure to insist on seeing Madame Walravens herself, and giving the basket into her own hands, in order that there may be no mistake, for she is rather a punctilious personage. Adieu! Au revoir!”

And at last I got away. The shop commissions took some time to execute, that choosing and matching of silks and wools being always a tedious business; but at last I got through my list. The patterns for the slippers, the bell-ropes, the cabas, were selected, the slides and tassels for the purses chosen—the whole tripotage, in short, was off my mind; nothing but the fruit and the felicitations remained to be attended to.

I rather liked the prospect of a long walk, deep into the old and grim Basse-Ville; and I liked it no worse because the evening sky, over the city, was settling into a mass of black-blue metal, heated at the rim, and inflaming slowly to a heavy red.

I fear a high wind, because storm demands that exertion of strength and use of action I always yield with pain; but the sullen downfall, the thick snow descent, or dark rush of rain, ask only resignation—the quiet abandonment of garments and person to be drenched. In return, it sweeps a great capital clean before you. It makes you a quiet path through broad, grand streets; it petrifies a living city as if by Eastern enchantment; it transforms a Villette into a Tadmor. Let, then, the rains fall and the floods descend, only I must first get rid of this basket of fruit.

An unknown clock from an unknown tower (Jean Baptiste’s voice was now too distant to be audible) was tolling the third quarter past five when I reached that street and house whereof Madame Beck had given me the address. It was no street at all; it seemed rather to be part of a square. It was quiet; grass grew between the broad gray flags. The houses were large and looked very old; behind them rose the appearance of trees, indicating gardens at the back. Antiquity brooded above this region; business was banished thence. Rich men had once possessed this quarter, and once grandeur had made her seat here. That church, whose dark, halfruinous turrets overlooked the square, was the venerable and formerly opulent shrine of the Magi. But wealth and greatness had long since stretched their gilded pinions and fled hence, leaving these their ancient nests, perhaps to house penury for a time, or perhaps to stand cold and empty, mouldering untenanted in the course of winters.

As I crossed this deserted “place,” on whose pavement drops almost as large as a five-franc piece were now slowly darkening, I saw, in its whole expanse, no symptom or evidence of life, except what was

  By PanEris using Melati.

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