"YOU will call at the Villa Pontignard at noon to-morrow. The Duchess will herself receive you," said the butler, with a superb condescension, and he paced away up the narrow winding streets of Roquebrune, wondering, with perhaps a little contempt for the incomprehensible eccentricities of rank, what in the world the Duchess of Pontignard could have in common with a little village schoolmaster that she should be at the pains to command his presence.
The schoolmaster, however, had no doubts as to the reason of the summons. He leaned over the parapet of the tiny square before the schoolhouse, and from head to foot he tingled and glowed. It was his brochure upon the history of the village—written with what timidity, printed at what cost to his meagre purse!—which had brought him this recognition from the great lady of the villa upon the spur of the hill. Turning about, he could just see, as he looked upwards, the white walls of that villa glimmering through the dusk, he could imagine its garden of trim lawns and oleanders and dark cypresses falling back from bank to bank in ordered tiers down the hill-side.
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