Deroulede felt this magnetism, and therefore did not resent the implied suggestion, anent the saint whom he was still content to worship.
A dreamer and an idealist, his mind held spellbound by the great social problems which were causing the upheaval of a whole country, he had not yet had the time to learn the sweet lesson which Nature teaches to her elect—the lesson of a great, a true, human and passionate love. To him, at present, Juliette represented the perfect embodiment of his most idealistic dreams. She stood in his mind so far above him that if she proved unattainable, he would scarce have suffered. It was such a foregone conclusion.
Blakeney’s words were the first to stir in his heart a desire for something beyond that quasi-mediaeval worship, something weaker and yet infinitely stronger, something more earthy and yet almost divine.
“And now, shall we join the ladies?” said Blakeney after a long pause, during which the mental workings of his alert brain were almost visible, in the earnest look which he cast at his friend. “You shall keep the papers in your desk, give them into the keeping of your saint, trust her all in all rather than not at all, and if the time should come that your heaven-enthroned ideal fall somewhat heavily to earth, then give me the privilege of being a witness to your happiness.”
“You are still mistrustful, Blakeney,” said Deroulede lightly. “If you say much more I’ll give these papers into Mademoiselle Marny’s keeping until to-morrow.”
That night, when Blakeney, wrapped in his cloak, was walking down the Rue Ecole de Medecine towards his own lodgings, he suddenly felt a timid hand upon his sleeve.
Anne Mie stood beside him, her pale, melancholy face peeping up at the tall Englishman, through the folds of a dark hood closely tied under her chin.
“Monsieur,” she said timidly, “do not think me very presumptuous. I— I would wish to have five minutes’ talk with you—may I?”
He looked down with great kindness at the quaint, wizened little figure, and the strong face softened at the sight of the poor, deformed shoulder, the hard, pinched look of the young mouth, the general look of pathetic helplessness which appeals so strongly to the chivalrous.
“Indeed, mademoiselle,” he said gently, “you make me very proud; and I can serve you in any way, I pray you command me. But,” he added, seeing Anne Mie’s somewhat scared look, “this street is scarce fit for private conversation. Shall we try and find a better spot?”
Paris had not yet gone to bed. In these times it was really safest to be out in the open streets. There, everybody was more busy, more on the move, on the lookout for suspected houses, leaving the wanderer alone.