The interview would be short, of course. He would say to me just what he had said to each of the assembled pupils. He would take and hold my hand two minutes. He would touch my cheek with his lips for the first, last, only time, and thenno more. Then, indeed, the final parting, then the wide separation, the great gulf I could not pass to go to him, across which, haply, he would not glance to remember me.
He took my hand in one of his; with the other he put back my bonnet. He looked into my face, his luminous smile went out, his lips expressed something almost like the wordless language of a mother who finds a child greatly and unexpectedly changed, broken with illness, or worn out by want. A check supervened.
Paul, Paul! said a womans hurried voice behindPaul, come into the salon. I have yet a great many things to say to youconversation for the whole dayand so has Victor; and Josef is here. Come, Paulcome to your friends.
Madame Beck, brought to the spot by vigilance or an inscrutable instinct, pressed so near she almost thrust herself between me and M. Emanuel. Come, Paul! she reiterated, her eye grazing me with its hard ray like a steel stylet. She pushed against her kinsman. I thought he receded; I thought he would go. Pierced deeper than I could endure, made now to feel what defied suppression, I cried,
My heart will break!
What I felt seemed literal heartbreak; but the seal of another fountain yielded under the strain. One breath from M. Paul, the whisper, Trust me! lifted a load, opened an outlet. With many a deep sob, with thrilling, with icy shiver, with strong trembling, and yet with relief, I wept.
Leave her to me; it is a crisis. I will give her a cordial, and it will pass, said the calm Madame Beck.
To be left to her and her cordial seemed to me something like being left to the poisoner and her bowl. When M. Paul answered deeply, harshly, and briefly, Laissez-moi! in the grim sound I felt a music strange, strong, but life-giving.
Laissez-moi! he repeated, his nostrils opening, and his facial muscles all quivering as he spoke.
But this will never do, said madame with sternness. More sternly rejoined her kinsman,
I will send for Père Silas; on the spot I will send for him, she threatened pertinaciously.
Femme! cried the professor, not now in his deep tones, but in his highest and most excited keyfemme! sortez à linstant!
He was roused, and I loved him in his wrath with a passion beyond what I had yet felt.
What you do is wrong, pursued madame; it is an act characteristic of men of your unreliable, imaginative temperamenta step impulsive, injudicious, inconsistenta proceeding vexatious, and not estimable in the view of persons of steadier and more resolute character.
You know not what I have of steady and resolute in me, said he, but you shall see; the event shall teach you. Modeste, he continued, less fiercely, be gentle, be pitying, be a woman. Look at this poor face, and relent. You know I am your friend and the friend of your friends; in spite of your taunts you well and deeply know I may be trusted. Of sacrificing myself I made no difficulty, but my heart is pained by what I see. It must have and give solace. Leave me!
This time, in the leave me there was an intonation so bitter and so imperative, I wondered that even Madame Beck herself could for one moment delay obedience. But she stood firm; she gazed upon him dauntless; she met his eye, forbidding and fixed as stone. She was opening her lips to retort. I saw over
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