A light rustling sound approached,--a sound of quick feet treading the grass: then a shadow slanted over the threshold. In the glow of the open doorway stood a young girl,--gracile, tall,--with singularly splendid eyes,--brown eyes peeping at him from beneath a golden riot of loose hair.
--"M'sieu-le-Docteur, maman d'mande si vous n'avez besoin d'que'que chose?" ... She spoke the rude French of the fishing villages, where the language lives chiefly as a baragouin, mingled often with words and forms belonging to many other tongues. She wore a loose-falling dress of some light stuff, steel-gray in color;--boys' shoes were on her feet.
He did not reply;--and her large eyes grew larger for wonder at the strange fixed gaze of the physician, whose face had visibly bleached,--blanched to corpse-pallor. Silent seconds passed; and still the eyes stared--flamed as if the life of the man had centralized and focussed within them.
His voice had risen to a cry in his throat, quivered and swelled one passionate instant, and failed--as in a dream when one strives to call, and yet can only moan ... She! Her unforgotten eyes, her brows, her lips!--the oval of her face!--the dawn-light of her hair! ... Adele's own poise,--her own grace!--even the very turn of her neck, even the bird-tone of her speech! ... Had the grave sent forth a Shadow to haunt him?--could the perfidious Sea have yielded up its dead? For one terrible fraction of a minute, memories, doubts, fears, mad fancies, went pulsing through his brain with a rush like the rhythmic throbbing of an electric stream;--then the shock passed, the Reason spoke:--"Fool!--count the long years since you first saw her thus!--countthe years that have gone since you looked upon her last! And Time has never halted, silly heart!--neither has Death stood still!"
... "Plait-il?"--the clear voice of the young girl asked. She thought he had made some response she could not distinctly hear.
Mastering himself an instant, as the heart faltered back to its duty, and the color remounted to his lips, he answered her in French:--
"Pardon me!--I did not hear ... you gave me such a start!" ... But even then another extraordinary fancy flashed through his thought;--and with the tutoiement of a parent to a child, with an irresistible outburst of such tenderness as almost frightened her, he cried: "Oh! merciful God!--how like her! ... Tell me, darling, your name; ... tell me who you are?" (Dis-moi qui tu es, mignonne;--dis-moi ton nom.)
... Who was it had asked her the same question, in another idiom ever so long ago? The man with the black eyes and nose like an eagle's beak,--the one who gave her the compass. Not this man--no!