Had I been too hasty? I used to ask myself; and this question would occur with a cruel sharpness after some brief chance interview with Dr. John. He had still such kind looks, such a warm hand; his voice still kept so pleasant a tone for my name; I never liked "Lucy" so well as when he uttered it. But I learned in time that this benignity, this cordiality, this music, belonged in no shape to me: it was a part of himself; it was the honey of his temper; it was the balm of his mellow mood; he imparted it as the ripe fruit rewards with sweetness the rifling bee; he diffused it about him, as sweet plants shed their perfume. Does the nectarine love either the bee or bird it feeds? Is the sweetbriar enamored of the air?
"Good-night, Dr. John; you are good, you are beautiful; but you are not mine. Good-night, and God bless you!"
Thus I closed my musings. "Good-night" left my lips in sound; I heard the two words spoken, and then I heard an echo—quite close.
"Good-night, mademoiselle; or, rather, good-evening—the sun is scarce set; I hope you slept well?"
I started, but was only discomposed a moment; I knew the voice and speaker.
"Slept, monsieur! When? where?"
"You may well inquire when—where. It seems you turn day into night, and choose a desk for a pillow; rather hard lodging——?"
"It was softened for me, monsieur, while I slept. That unseen, gift-bringing thing which haunts my desk, remembered me. No matter how I fell asleep; I awoke pillowed and covered".
"Did the shawls keep you warm?"
"Very warm. Do you ask thanks for them?"
"No. You looked pale in your slumbers; are you home-sick?"
"To be home-sick, one must have a home; which I have not".
"Then you have more need of a careful friend. I scarcely know any one, Miss Lucy, who needs a friend more absolutely than you; your very faults imperatively require it. You want so much checking, regulating, and keeping down".
This idea of "keeping down" never left M. Paul's head;