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THE UNEXPECTED

hand I doubt, for his touch and jeering manner desecrated the sacred relic of my vanished saint.

De Virelle scowled somewhat at my precipitation, but, meeting a no less determined air, passed the matter by. His ladies affected not to see. They in their turn plied me with inquiries about the savages in America, asked all manner of silly questions, and completed with their foolish simperings the disgust I already felt at such an interruption to my thought. Yet so great is the force of novelty to women they clung about me as if I were some strange tame animal brought to Paris for their divertisement.

"Zounds, Margot dear," de Virelle blurted out aside, for even his dull senses saw I was not pleased, "our good Moliere must have had this hermit captain in his mind when he made Alceste to rail so at the hypocrisies of the world, and urge the telling of truth and looking of truth at all times."

"How brutally frank! What bad breeding," assented that young woman.

"This captain seems so full of weariness at our coming, and lacks the grace to veil it decently; let us go."

Finding no hand of mine raised to hinder them, these fair dames and demoiselles, with many pretty pouts and flutters and flounces, betook themselves away, followed by their faithful squire.

I began then to feel sorry at having disgraced Jerome's gentle teachings. The light dying away across the distant fields and streams, I resigned my solitary communion and set out slowly toward the villa.