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Chapter 9

The next day Madame Beaurepas handed me, with her own elderly
fingers, a missive, which proved to be a telegram. After glancing at
it, I informed her that it was apparently a signal for my departure;
my brother had arrived in England, and proposed to me to meet him
there; he had come on business, and was to spend but three weeks in
Europe. "But my house empties itself!" cried the old woman. "The
famille Ruck talks of leaving me, and Madame Church nous fait la
reverence."

"Mrs. Church is going away?"

"She is packing her trunk; she is a very extraordinary person. Do
you know what she asked me this morning? To invent some combination
by which the famille Ruck should move away. I informed her that I
was not an inventor. That poor famille Ruck! 'Oblige me by getting
rid of them,' said Madame Church, as she would have asked Celestine
to remove a dish of cabbage. She speaks as if the world were made
for Madame Church. I intimated to her that if she objected to the
company there was a very simple remedy; and at present elle fait ses
paquets."

"She really asked you to get the Rucks out of the house?"

"She asked me to tell them that their rooms had been let, three
months ago, to another family. She has an APLOMB!"

Mrs. Church's aplomb caused me considerable diversion; I am not sure
that it was not, in some degree, to laugh over it at my leisure that
I went out into the garden that evening to smoke a cigar. The night
was dark and not particularly balmy, and most of my fellow-
pensioners, after dinner, had remained in-doors. A long straight
walk conducted from the door of the house to the ancient grille that
I have described, and I stood here for some time, looking through the
iron bars at the silent empty street. The prospect was not
entertaining, and I presently turned away. At this moment I saw, in
the distance, the door of the house open and throw a shaft of
lamplight into the darkness. Into the lamplight there stepped the
figure of a female, who presently closed the door behind her. She
disappeared in the dusk of the garden, and I had seen her but for an
instant, but I remained under the impression that Aurora Church, on
the eve of her departure, had come out for a meditative stroll.

I lingered near the gate, keeping the red tip of my cigar turned
toward the house, and before long a young lady emerged from among the
shadows of the trees and encountered the light of a lamp that stood
just outside the gate. It was in fact Aurora Church, but she seemed
more bent upon conversation than upon meditation. She stood a moment
looking at me, and then she said, -

"Ought I to retire--to return to the house?"

"If you ought, I should be very sorry to tell you so," I answered.

"But we are all alone; there is no one else in the garden."

"It is not the first time that I have been alone with a young lady.
I am not at all terrified."

"Ah, but I?" said the young girl. "I have never been alone--" then,
quickly, she interrupted herself. "Good, there's another false
note!"

"Yes, I am obliged to admit that one is very false."

She stood looking at me. "I am going away to-morrow; after that
there will be no one to tell me."

Henry James

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