19. The Cleopatra
My stay at La Terrasse was prolonged a fortnight beyond the close of the vacation. Mrs.
Bretton's kind management procured me this respite. Her son having one day delivered
the dictum that 'Lucy was not yet strong enough to go back to that den of a Pensionnat,'
she at once drove over to the Rue Fossette, had an interview with the directress, and
procured the indulgence, on the plea of prolonged rest and change being necessary to
perfect recovery. Hereupon, however, followed an attention I could very well have
dispensed with, viz. - a polite call from Madame Beck.
That lady - one fine day - actually came out in a fiacre as far as the château. I suppose
she had resolved within herself to see what manner of place Dr. John inhabited.
Apparently, the pleasant site and neat interior surpassed her expectations; she eulogised
all she saw, pronounced the blue salon 'une pièce magnifique,' profusely congratulated
me on the acquisition of friends, 'tellement dignes, aimables, et respectables,' turned also
a neat compliment in my favour, and, upon Dr. John coming in, ran up to him with the
utmost buoyancy, opening at the same time such a fire of rapid language, all sparkling
with felicitations and protestations about his 'château' - 'madame sa mère, la digne
châtelaine:' also his looks; which, indeed, were very flourishing, and at the moment
additionally embellished by the good-natured but amused smile with which he always
listened to Madame's fluent and florid French. In short, Madame shone in her very best
phase that day, and came in and went out quite a living catherine-wheel of compliments,
delight and affability. Half-purposely, and half to ask some question about school-
business, I followed her to the carriage, and looked in after she was seated and the door
closed. In that brief fraction of time what a change had been wrought! An instant ago, all
sparkles and jests, she now sat sterner than a judge and graver than a sage. Strange little
I went back and teased Dr. John about Madame's devotion to him. How he laughed! What
fun shone in his eyes as he recalled some of her fine speeches, and repeated them,
imitating her voluble delivery! He had an acute sense of humour, and was the finest
company in the world - when he could forget Miss Fanshawe.
To 'sit in sunshine calm and sweet' is said to be excellent for weak people; it gives them
vital force. When little Georgette Beck was recovering from her illness, I used to take her
in my arms and walk with her in the garden by the hour together, beneath a certain wall
hung with grapes, which the Southern sun was ripening: that sun cherished her little pale
frame quite as effectually as it mellowed and swelled the clustering fruit.
There are human tempers, bland, glowing, and genial, within whose influence it is as
good for the poor in spirit to live, as it is for the feeble in frame to bask in the glow of
noon. Of the number of these choice natures were certainly both Dr. Bretton's and his