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26. A Burial
From this date my life did not want variety; I went out a good deal, with the entire
consent of Madame Beck, who perfectly approved the grade of my acquaintance. That
worthy directress had never from the first treated me otherwise than with respect; and
when she found that I was liable to frequent invitations from a château and a great hôtel
respect improved into distinction.
Not that she was fulsome about it: Madame, in all things worldly, was in nothing weak;
there was measure and sense in her hottest pursuit of self-interest, calm and
considerateness in her closest clutch of gain; without, then, laying herself open to my
contempt as a time-server and a toadie, she marked with tact that she was pleased people
connected with her establishment should frequent such associates as must cultivate and
elevate, rather than those who might deteriorate and depress. She never praised either me
or my friends; only once when she was sitting in the sun in the garden, a cup of coffee at
her elbow and the Gazette in her hand, looking very comfortable, and I came up and
asked leave of absence for the evening, she delivered herself in this gracious sort: -
'Oui, oui, ma bonne amie: je vous donne la permission de coeur et de gré. Votre travail
dans ma maison a toujours été admirable, rempli de zèle et de discrétion: vous avez bien
le droit de vous amuser. Sortez donc tant que vous voudrez. Quant à votre choix de
connaissances, j'en suis contente; c'est sage, digne, laudable.'
She closed her lips and resumed the Gazette.
The reader will not too gravely regard the little circumstance that about this time the
triply-enclosed packet of five letters temporarily disappeared from my bureau. Blank
dismay was naturally my first sensation on making the discovery; but in a moment I took
heart of grace.
'Patience!' whispered I to myself. 'Let me say nothing, but wait peaceably; they will come
back again.'
And they did come back: they had only been on a short visit to Madame's chamber;
having passed their examination they came back duly and truly: I found them all right the
next day.
I wonder what she thought of my correspondence. What estimate did she form of Dr.
John Bretton's epistolary powers? In what light did the often very pithy thoughts, the
generally sound, and sometimes original opinions, set, without pretension, in an easily-
flowing, spirited style, appear to her? How did she like that genial, half-humorous vein,
which to me gave such delight? What did she think of the few kind words scattered here
and there - not thickly, as the diamonds were scattered in the valley of Sindbad, but
sparely, as those gems lie in unfabled beds? Oh, Madame Beck! how seemed these things
to you?