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31. The Dryad
The spring was advancing, and the weather had turned suddenly warm. This change of
temperature brought with it for me, as probably for many others, temporary decrease of
strength. Slight exertion at this time left me overcome with fatigue -- sleepless nights
entailed languid days.
One Sunday afternoon, having walked the distance of half a league to the Protestant
church, I came back weary and exhausted; and taking refuge in my solitary sanctuary, the
first classe, I was glad to sit down, and to make of my desk a pillow for my arms and
Awhile I listened to the lullaby of bees humming in the berceau, and watched, through
the glass door and the tender, lightly-strewn spring foliage, Madame Beck and a gay
party of friends, whom she had entertained that day at dinner after morning mass,
walking in the centre alley under orchard boughs dressed at this season in blossom, and
wearing a colouring as pure and warm as mountain snow at sunrise.
My principal attraction towards this group of guests lay, I remember, in one figure -- that
of a handsome young girl whom I had seen before as a visitor at Madame Beck's, and of
whom I had been vaguely told that she was a 'filleule,' or goddaughter, of M. Emanuel's,
and that between her mother, or aunt or some other female relation of hers, and the
Professor -- had existed of old a special friendship. M. Paul was not of the holiday band
to-day, but I had seen this young girl with him ere now, and as far as distant observation
could enable me to judge, she seemed to enjoy him with the frank ease of a ward with an
indulgent guardian. I had seen her run up to him, put her arm through his, and hang upon
him. Once, when she did so, a curious sensation had struck through me -- a disagreeable
anticipatory sensation -- one of the family of presentiments, I suppose -- but I refused to
analyse or dwell upon it. While watching this girl, Mademoiselle Sauveur, by name, and
following the gleam of her bright silk robe (she was always richly dressed, for she was
said to be wealthy) through the flowers and the glancing leaves of tender emerald, my
eyes became dazzled -- they closed; my lassitude, the warmth of the day, the hum of bees
and birds, all lulled me, and at last I slept.
Two hours stole over me. Ere I woke, the sun had declined out of sight behind the
towering houses, the garden and the room were grey, bees had gone homeward, and the
flowers were closing; the party of guests, too, had vanished; each alley was void.
On waking, I felt much at ease -- not chill, as I ought to have been after sitting so still for
at least two hours; my cheek and arms were not benumbed by pressure against the hard
desk. No wonder. Instead of the bare wood on which I had laid them, I found a thick
shawl, carefully folded, substituted for support, and another shawl (both taken from the
corridor where such things hung) wrapped warmly round me.