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Villette

30. M. Paul
Yet the reader is advised not to be in any hurry with his kindly conclusions, or to
suppose, with an over-hasty charity, that from that day M. Paul became a changed
character -- easy to live with, and no longer apt to flash danger and discomfort round him.
No; he was naturally a little man, of unreasonable moods. When overwrought, which he
often was, he became acutely irritable; and, besides, his veins were dark with a livid
belladonna tincture, the essence of jealousy. I do not mean merely the tender jealousy of
the heart, but that sterner, narrower sentiment whose seat is in the head.
I used to think, as I sat looking at M. Paul, while he was knitting his brow or protruding
his lip over some exercise of mine, which had not as many faults as he wished (for he
liked me to commit faults: a knot of blunders was sweet to him as a cluster of nuts), that
he had points of resemblance to Napoleon Bonaparte. I think so still.
In a shameless disregard of magnanimity, he resembled the great Emperor. M. Paul
would have quarrelled with twenty learned women, would have unblushingly carried on a
system of petty bickering and recrimination with a whole capital of coteries, never
troubling himself about loss or lack of dignity. He would have exiled fifty Madame de
Staëls, if they had annoyed, offended, outrivalled or opposed him.
I well remember a hot episode of his with a certain Madame Panache -- a lady
temporarily employed by Madame Beck to give lessons in history. She was clever -- that
is, she knew a good deal; and besides, thoroughly possessed the art of making the most of
what she knew; of words and confidence she held unlimited command. Her personal
appearance was far from destitute of advantages; I believe many people would have
pronounced her 'a fine woman; and yet there were points in her robust and ample
attractions, as well as in her bustling and demonstrative presence, which, it appeared, the
nice and capricious tastes of M. Paul could not away with. The sound of her voice,
echoing through the carré, would put him into a strange taking: her long, free step --
almost stride -- along the corridor, would often make him snatch up his papers and
decamp on the instant.
With malicious intent he bethought himself one day, to intrude on her class; as quick as
lightning he gathered her method of instruction; it differed from a pet plan of his own.
With little ceremony, and less courtesy, he pointed out what he termed her errors.
Whether he expected submission and attention, I know not; he met an acrid opposition,
accompanied by a round reprimand for his certainly unjustifiable interference.
Instead of withdrawing with dignity, as he might still have done, he threw down the
gauntlet of defiance. Madame Panache, bellicose as a Penthesilea, picked it up in a
minute. She snapped her fingers in the intermeddler's face; she rushed upon him with a
storm of words. M. Emanuel was eloquent; but Madame Panache was voluble. A system
of fierce antagonism ensued. Instead of laughing in his sleeve at his fair foe, with all her
 
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