The supper, consisting of bread, and milk diluted with tepid water, was brought in. In respectful consideration of the professor's presence, the rolls and glasses were allowed to stand instead of being immediately handed round.
"Take your supper, ladies", said he, seeming to be occupied in making marginal notes to his "Williams Shackspire". They took it. I also accepted a roll and glass, but being now more than ever interested in my work, I kept my seat of punishment, and wrought while I munched my bread and sipped my beverage, the whole with easy sang-froid; with a certain snugness of composure, indeed, scarcely in my habits, and pleasantly novel to my feelings. It seemed as if the presence of a nature so restless, chafing, thorny as that of M. Paul absorbed all feverish and unsettling influences like a magnet, and left me none but such as were placid and harmonious.
He rose. "Will he go away without saying another word?" Yes; he turned to the door.
No: he re-turned on his steps; but only, perhaps, to take his pencil-case, which had been left on the table.
He took it—shut the pencil in and out, broke its point against the wood, re-cut and pocketed it, and . . . walked promptly up to me.
The girls and teachers, gathered round the other table were talking pretty freely; they always talked at meals; and, from the constant habit of speaking fast and loud at such times, did not now subdue their voices much.
M. Paul came and stood behind me. He asked at what I was working; and I said I was making a watchguard.
He asked, "For whom?" And I answered, "For a gentleman—one of my friends".
M. Paul stooped down and proceeded—as novel-writers say, and as was literally true in his case—to "hiss" into my ear some poignant words.
He said that, of all the women he knew, I was the one who could make herself the most consummately unpleasant; I was she with whom it was least possible to live on friendly terms. I had a "caractère intraitable" and perverse to a miracle. How I managed it, or what possessed me, he, for his part, did not know; but with whatever pacific and amicable intentions a person accosted me—crac! I turned concord to discord, good-will to enmity. He was sure, he—-