That same morning Clotilde had given a music-scholar her appointed lesson, and at its conclusion had borrowed of her patroness (how pleasant it must have been to have such things to lend!) a little yellow maid, in order that, with more propriety, she might make a business call. It was that matter of the rent—one that had of late occasioned her great secret distress. “It is plain,” she had begun to say to herself, unable to comprehend Aurora’s peculiar trust in Providence, “that if the money is to be got I must get it.” A possibility had flashed upon her mind; she had nurtured it into a project, had submitted it to her father-confessor in the cathedral, and received his unqualified approval of it, and was ready this morning to put it into execution. A great merit of the plan was its simplicity. It was merely to find for her heaviest bracelet a purchaser in time, and a price sufficient, to pay to-morrow’s “maturities.” See there again!—to her, her little secret was of greater import than the collision of almost any pine-knot with almost any head.
It must not be accepted as evidence either of her unwillingness to sell or of the amount of gold in the bracelet, that it took the total of Clotilde’s moral and physical strength to carry it to the shop where she hoped—against hope—to dispose of it.
’Sieur Frowenfeld, M. Innerarity said, was out, but would certainly be in in a few minutes, and she was persuaded to take a chair against the half-hidden door at the bottom of the shop with the little borrowed maid crouched at her feet.
She had twice or thrice felt a regret that she had undertaken to wait, and was about to rise and go, when suddenly she saw before her Joseph Frowenfeld, wiping the sweat of anguish from his brow and smeared with blood from his forehead down. She rose quickly and silently, turned sick and blind, and laid her hand upon the back of the chair for support. Frowenfeld stood an instant before her, groaned, and disappeared through the door. The little maid, retreating backward against her from the direction of the street-door, drew to her attention a crowd of sight-seers which had rushed up to the doors and against which Raoul was hurriedly closing the shop.
CLOTILDE AS A SURGEON
Was it worse to stay, or to fly? The decision must be instantaneous. But Raoul made it easy by crying in their common tongue, as he slammed a massive shutter and shot its bolt:
“Go to him! he is down—I heard him fall. Go to him!”
At this rallying cry she seized her shield—that is to say, the little yellow attendant—and hurried into the room. Joseph lay just beyond the middle of the apartment, face downward. She found water and a basin, wet her own handkerchief, and dropped to her knees beside his head; but the moment he felt the small feminine hands he stood up. She took him by the arm.