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Villette

34. Malevola
Madame Beck called me on Thursday afternoon, and asked whether I had any occupation
to hinder me from going into town and executing some little commissions for her at the
shops.
Being disengaged, and placing myself at her service, I was presently furnished with a list
of the wools, silks, embroidering thread, etcetera, wanted in the pupils' work, and having
equipped myself in a manner suiting the threatening aspect of a cloudy and sultry day, I
was just drawing the spring-bolt of the street door, in act to issue forth, when Madame's
voice again summoned me to the salle-à-manger.
'Pardon, Meess Lucie!' cried she, in the seeming haste of an impromptu thought, 'I have
just recollected one more errand for you, if your good nature will not deem itself
overburdened?'
Of course I 'confounded myself' in asseverations to the contrary; and Madame, running
into the little salon, brought thence a pretty basket, filled with fine hothouse fruit, rosy,
perfect and tempting, reposing amongst the dark green, waxlike leaves, and pale yellow
stars of I know not what, exotic plant.
'There,' she said, 'it is not heavy, and will not shame your neat toilette, as if it were a
household, servant-like detail. Do me the favour to leave this little basket at the house of
Madame Walravens, with my felicitations on her fête. She lives down in the old town,
Numéro 3, Rue des Mages. I fear you will find the walk rather long, but you have the
whole afternoon before you, and do not hurry; if you are not back in time for dinner, I
will order a portion to be saved, or Goton, with whom you are a favourite, will have
pleasure in tossing up some trifle, for your especial benefit. You shall not be forgotten,
ma bonne Meess. And oh! Please!' (calling me back once more) 'be sure to insist on
seeing Madame Walravens herself and giving the basket into her own hands, in order that
there may be no mistake, for she is rather a punctilious personage. Adieu! Au revoir!'
And at last I got away. The shop commissions took some time to execute, that choosing
and matching of silks and wools being always a tedious business, but at last I got through
my list. The patterns for the slippers, the bell-ropes, the cabas were selected -- the slides
and tassels for the purses chosen -- the whole 'tripotage' in short, was off my mind;
nothing but the fruit and the felicitations remained to be attended to.
I rather liked the prospect of a long walk, deep into the old and grim Basse-Ville; and I
liked it no worse because the evening sky, over the city, was settling into a mass of black-
blue metal, heated at the rim, and inflaming slowly to a heavy red.
I fear a high wind, because storm demands that exertion of strength and use of action I
always yield with pain; but the sullen downfall, the thick snow descent, or dark rush of
rain, ask only resignation -- the quiet abandonment of garments and person to be
 
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