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The Blonde Lady


M. Gerbois was a man easily irritated and quick to take offense. He
replied curtly:
"I must ask you to drop the subject, sir."
The young man placed himself in front of him.
"I don't know how much you paid, sir É but I offer you double the
price."
"No, thank you."
"Three times the price."
"Oh, that will do," exclaimed the professor, impatiently. "The desk be-
longs to me and is not for sale."
The young man stared at him with a look that remained imprinted on
M. Gerbois' memory, then turned on his heel, without a word, and
walked away.
* * * * *
An hour later, the desk was brought to the little house on the Viroflay
Road where the professor lived. He called his daughter:
"This is for you, Suzanne; that is, if you like it."
Suzanne was a pretty creature, of a demonstrative temperament and
easily pleased. She threw her arms round her father's neck and kissed
him as rapturously as though he had made her a present fit for a queen.
That evening, assisted by Hortense the maid, she carried up the desk
to her room, cleaned out the drawers and neatly put away her papers,
her stationery, her correspondence, her picture postcards and a few
secret souvenirs of her cousin Philippe.
M. Gerbois went to the college at half-past seven the next morning. At
ten o'clock Suzanne, according to her daily custom, went to meet him at
the exit; and it was a great pleasure to him to see her graceful, smiling
figure waiting on the pavement opposite the gate.
They walked home together.
"And how do you like the desk?"
"Oh, it's lovely! Hortense and I have polished up the brass handles till
they shine like gold."
"So you're pleased with it?"
"I should think so! I don't know how I did without it all this time."
They walked up the front garden. The professor said:
"Let's go and look at it before lunch."
"Yes, that's a good idea."
She went up the stairs first, but, on reaching the door of her room, she
gave a cry of dismay.
"What's the matter?" exclaimed M. Gerbois.
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