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Bardelys the Magnificent

19. The Flint And The Steel
Mademoiselle will see you, monsieur," said Anatole at last.
Twice already had he carried unavailingly my request that Roxalanne should
accord me an interview ere I departed. On this the third occasion I had bidden
him say that I would not stir from Lavedan until she had done me the honour of
hearing me. Seemingly that threat had prevailed where entreaties had been
scorned.
I followed Anatole from the half-light of the hall in which I had been pacing into
the salon overlooking the terraces and the river, where Roxalanne awaited me.
She was standing at the farther end of the room by one of the long windows,
which was open, for, although we were already in the first week of October, the
air of Languedoc was as warm and balmy as that of Paris or Picardy is in
summer.
I advanced to the centre of the chamber, and there I paused and waited until it
should please her to acknowledge my presence and turn to face me. I was no
fledgling. I had seen much, I had learnt much and been in many places, and my
bearing was wont to convey it. Never in my life had I been gauche, for which I
thank my parents, and if years ago - long years ago - a certain timidity had
marked my first introductions to the Louvre and the Luxembourg, that timidity
was something from which I had long since parted company. And yet it seemed
to me, as I stood in that pretty, sunlit room awaiting the pleasure of that child,
scarce out of her teens, that some of the awkwardness I had escaped in earlier
years, some of the timidity of long ago, came to me then. I shifted the weight of
my body from one leg to the other; I fingered the table by which I stood; I pulled
at the hat I held; my colour came and went; I looked at her furtively from under
bent brows, and I thanked God that her back being towards me she might not
see the clown I must have seemed.
At length, unable longer to brook that discomposing silence--
"Mademoiselle!" I called softly. The sound of my own voice seemed to invigorate
me, to strip me of my awkwardness and self-consciousness. It broke the spell
that for a moment had been over me, and brought me back to myself - to the
vain, self-confident, flamboyant Bardelys that perhaps you have pictured from my
writings.
"I hope, monsieur," she answered, without turning, "that what you may have to
say may justify in some measure your very importunate insistence."
 
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