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The Professor

Chapter 10
NEXT day the morning hours seemed to pass very slowly at M. Pelet's; I wanted
the afternoon to come that I might go again to the neighbouring pensionnat and
give my first lesson within its pleasant precincts; for pleasant they appeared to
me. At noon the hour of recreation arrived; at one o'clock we had lunch; this got
on the time, and at last St. Gudule's deep bell, tolling slowly two, marked the
moment for which I had been waiting.
At the foot of the narrow back-stairs that descended from my room, I met M.
"Comme vous avez l'air rayonnant!" said he. "Je ne vous ai jamais vu aussi gai.
Que s'est-il donc passe?"
"Apparemment que j'aime les changements," replied I.
"Ah! je comprends--c'est cela-soyez sage seulement. Vous etes bien jeune--trop
jeune pour le role que vous allez jouer; il faut prendre garde--savez-vous?"
"Mais quel danger y a-t-il?"
"Je n'en sais rien--ne vous laissez pas aller a de vives impressions--voila tout."
I laughed: a sentiment of exquisite pleasure played over my nerves at the
thought that "vives impressions" were likely to be created; it was the deadness,
the sameness of life's daily ongoings that had hitherto been my bane; my blouse-
clad "eleves" in the boys' seminary never stirred in me any "vives impressions"
except it might be occasionally some of anger. I broke from M. Pelet, and as I
strode down the passage he followed me with one of his laughs--a very French,
rakish, mocking sound.
Again I stood at the neighbouring door, and soon was re-admitted into the
cheerful passage with its clear dove-colour imitation marble walls. I followed the
portress, and descending a step, and making a turn, I found myself in a sort of
corridor; a side-door opened, Mdlle. Reuter's little figure, as graceful as it was
plump, appeared. I could now see her dress in full daylight; a neat, simple
mousseline-laine gown fitted her compact round shape to perfection--delicate
little collar and manchettes of lace, trim Parisian brodequins showed her neck,
wrists, and feet, to complete advantage; but how grave was her face as she
came suddenly upon me! Solicitude and business were in her eye --on her
forehead; she looked almost stern. Her "Bon jour, monsieur," was quite polite,
but so orderly, so commonplace, it spread directly a cool, damp towel over my
"vives impressions." The servant turned back when her mistress appeared, and I
walked slowly along the corridor, side by side with Mdlle. Reuter.
"Monsieur will give a lesson in the first class to-day," said she; "dictation or
reading will perhaps be the best thing to begin with, for those are the easiest
forms of communicating instruction in a foreign language; and, at the first, a
master naturally feels a little unsettled."
She was quite right, as I had found from experience; it only remained for me to
acquiesce. We proceeded now in silence. The corridor terminated in a hall, large,
lofty, and square; a glass door on one side showed within a long narrow
refectory, with tables, an armoire, and two lamps; it was empty; large glass