The Professor HTML version

Chapter 13
NEXT morning I rose with the dawn, and having dressed myself and stood half-
an-hour, my elbow leaning on the chest of drawers, considering what means I
should adopt to restore my spirits, fagged with sleeplessness, to their ordinary
tone--for I had no intention of getting up a scene with M. Pelet, reproaching him
with perfidy, sending him a challenge, or performing other gambadoes of the
sort--I hit at last on the expedient of walking out in the cool of the morning to a
neighbouring establishment of baths, and treating myself to a bracing plunge.
The remedy produced the desired effect. I came back at seven o'clock steadied
and invigorated, and was able to greet M. Pelet, when he entered to breakfast,
with an unchanged and tranquil countenance; even a cordial offering of the hand
and the flattering appellation of "mon fils," pronounced in that caressing tone with
which Monsieur had, of late days especially, been accustomed to address me,
did not elicit any external sign of the feeling which, though subdued, still glowed
at my heart. Not that I nursed vengeance--no; but the sense of insult and
treachery lived in me like a kindling, though as yet smothered coal. God knows I
am not by nature vindictive; I would not hurt a man because I can no longer trust
or like him; but neither my reason nor feelings are of the vacillating order--they
are not of that sand-like sort where impressions, if soon made, are as soon
effaced. Once convinced that my friend's disposition is incompatible with my own,
once assured that he is indelibly stained with certain defects obnoxious to my
principles, and I dissolve the connection. I did so with Edward. As to Pelet, the
discovery was yet new; should I act thus with him? It was the question I placed
before my mind as I stirred my cup of coffee with a half-pistolet (we never had
spoons), Pelet meantime being seated opposite, his pallid face looking as
knowing and more haggard than usual, his blue eye turned, now sternly on his
boys and ushers, and now graciously on me.
"Circumstances must guide me," said I; and meeting Pelet's false glance and
insinuating smile, I thanked heaven that I had last night opened my window and
read by the light of a full moon the true meaning of that guileful countenance. I
felt half his master, because the reality of his nature was now known to me; smile
and flatter as he would, I saw his soul lurk behind his smile, and heard in every
one of his smooth phrases a voice interpreting their treacherous import.
But Zoraide Reuter? Of course her defection had cut me to the quick? That stint;
must have gone too deep for any consolations of philosophy to be available in
curing its smart? Not at all. The night fever over, I looked about for balm to that
wound also, and found some nearer home than at Gilead. Reason was my
physician; she began by proving that the prize I had missed was of little value:
she admitted that, physically, Zoraide might have suited me, but affirmed that our
souls were not in harmony, and that discord must have resulted from the union of
her mind with mine. She then insisted on the suppression of all repining, and