Faubourg Clotilde

Must I, ere I close, render some account of that freedom and renovation which I won on the fête night? Must I tell how I and the two stalwart companions I brought home from the illuminated park bore the test of intimate acquaintance?

I tried them the very next day. They had boasted their strength loudly when they reclaimed me from love and its bondage, but upon my demanding deeds, not words, some evidence of better comfort, some experience of a relieved life, Freedom excused himself, as for the present impoverished and disabled to assist, and Renovation never spoke; he had died in the night suddenly.

I had nothing left for it then but to trust secretly that conjecture might have hurried me too fast and too far, to sustain the oppressive hour by reminders of the distorting and discolouring magic of jealousy. After a short and vain struggle, I found myself brought back captive to the old rack of suspense, tied down and strained anew.

Shall I yet see him before he goes? Will he bear me in mind? Does he purpose to come? Will this day—will the next hour bring him? or must I again assay that corroding pain of long attent, that rude agony of rupture at the close, that mute, mortal wrench, which, in at once uprooting hope and doubt, shakes life, while the hand that does the violence cannot be caressed to pity, because absence interposes her barrier.

It was the Feast of the Assumption; no school was held. The boarders and teachers, after attending mass in the morning, were gone a long walk into the country to take their goûter, or afternoon meal, at some farmhouse. I did not go with them, for now but two days remained ere the Paul et Virginie must sail, and I was clinging to my last chance, as the living waif of a wreck clings to his last raft or cable.

There was some joiner work to do in the first classe, some bench or desk to repair. Holidays were often turned to account for the performance of these operations, which could not be executed when the rooms were filled with pupils. As I sat solitary, purposing to adjourn to the garden and leave the coast clear, but too listless to fulfil my own intent, I heard the workmen coming.

Foreign artisans and servants do everything by couples. I believe it would take two Labassecourian carpenters to drive a nail. While tying on my bonnet, which had hitherto hung by its ribbons from my idle hand, I vaguely and momentarily wondered to hear the step of but one ouvrier. I noted, too—as captives in dungeons find sometimes dreary leisure to note the merest trifles—that this man wore shoes, and not sabots. I concluded that it must be the master carpenter coming to inspect before he sent his journeymen. I threw round me my scarf. He advanced; he opened the door. My back was towards it. I felt a little thrill, a curious sensation, too quick and transient to be analyzed. I turned, I stood in the supposed master-artisan’s presence. Looking towards the doorway I saw it filled with a figure, and my eyes printed upon my brain the picture of M. Paul.

Hundreds of the prayers with which we weary Heaven bring to the suppliant no fulfilment. Once haply in life one golden gift falls prone in the lap—one boon full and bright, perfect from Fruition’s mint.

M. Emanuel wore the dress in which he probably purposed to travel—a surtout, guarded with velvet. I thought him prepared for instant departure, and yet I had understood that two days were yet to run before the ship sailed. He looked well and cheerful. He looked kind and benign. He came in with eagerness; he was close to me in one second; he was all amity. It might be his bridegroom-mood which thus brightened him. Whatever the cause, I could not meet his sunshine with cloud. If this were my last moment with him, I would not waste it in forced, unnatural distance. I loved him well—too well not to smite out of my path even Jealousy herself, when she would have obstructed a kind farewell. A cordial word from his lips, or a gentle look from his eyes, would do me good for all the span of life that remained to me. It would be comfort in the last strait of loneliness. I would take it—I would taste the elixir, and pride should not spill the cup.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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