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- WHITE LIES - 2/77 -
of a devoted lover, and hated Camille Dujardin with all her heart: hated him all the more that she saw Josephine shrink even from her whenever she inveighed against him.
At last Rose heard some news of the truant lover. The fact is, this young lady was as intelligent as she was inexperienced; and she had asked Jacintha to tell Dard to talk to every soldier that passed through the village, and ask him if he knew anything about Captain Dujardin of the 17th regiment. Dard cross-examined about a hundred invalided warriors, who did not even recognize the captain's name; but at last, by extraordinary luck, he actually did fall in with two, who told him strange news about Captain Dujardin. And so then Dard told Jacintha; and Jacintha soon had the men into the kitchen and told Rose. Rose ran to tell Josephine; but stopped in the passage, and turned suddenly very cold. Her courage failed her; she feared Josephine would not take the news as she ought; and perhaps would not love her so well if SHE told her; so she thought to herself she would let the soldiers tell their own tale. She went into the room where Josephine was reading to the baroness and Dr. Aubertin; she sat quietly down; but at the first opportunity made Josephine one of those imperceptible signals which women, and above all, sisters, have reduced to so subtle a system. This done, she went carelessly out: and Josephine in due course followed her, and found her at the door.
"What is it?" said Josephine, earnestly.
"Have you courage?" was Rose's reply.
"He is dead?" said Josephine, turning pale as ashes.
"No, no;" said Rose hastily; "he is alive. But you will need all your courage."
"Since he lives I fear nothing," said Josephine; and stood there and quivered from head to foot. Rose, with pitying looks, took her by the hand and drew her in silence towards the kitchen.
Josephine yielded a mute submission at first; but at the very door hung back and faltered, "He loves another; he is married: let me go." Rose made no reply, but left her there and went into the kitchen and found two dragoons seated round a bottle of wine. They rose and saluted her.
"Be seated, my brave men," said she; "only please tell me what you told Jacintha about Captain Dujardin."
"Don't stain your mouth with the captain, my little lady. He is a traitor."
"How do you know?"
"Marcellus! mademoiselle asks us how we know Captain Dujardin to be a traitor. Speak."
Marcellus, thus appealed to, told Rose after his own fashion that he knew the captain well: that one day the captain rode out of the camp and never returned: that at first great anxiety was felt on his behalf, for the captain was a great favorite, and passed for the smartest soldier in the division: that after awhile anxiety gave place to some very awkward suspicions, and these suspicions it was his lot and his comrade's here to confirm. About a month later he and the said comrade and two more were sent, well mounted, to reconnoitre a Spanish village. At the door of a little inn they caught sight of a French uniform. This so excited their curiosity that he went forward nearer than prudent, and distinctly recognized Captain Dujardin seated at a table drinking between two guerillas; then he rode back and told the others, who then came up and satisfied themselves it was so: that if any of the party had entertained a doubt, it was removed in an unpleasant way; he, Marcellus, disgusted at the sight of a French uniform drinking among Spaniards, took down his carabine and fired at the group as carefully as a somewhat restive horse permitted: at this, as if by magic, a score or so of guerillas poured out from Heaven knows where, musket in hand, and delivered a volley; the officer in command of the party fell dead, Jean Jacques here got a broken arm, and his own horse was wounded in two places, and fell from loss of blood a few furlongs from the French camp, to the neighborhood of which the vagabonds pursued them, hallooing and shouting and firing like barbarous banditti as they were.
"However, here I am," concluded Marcellus, "invalided for awhile, my lady, but not expended yet: we will soon dash in among them again for death or glory. Meantime," concluded he, filling both glasses, "let us drink to the eyes of beauty (military salute); and to the renown of France; and double damnation to all her traitors, like that Captain Dujardin; whose neck may the devil twist."
Ere they could drink to this energetic toast, a low wail at the door, like a dying hare's, arrested the glasses on their road, and the rough soldiers stood transfixed, and looked at one another in some dismay. Rose flew to the door with a face full of concern.
Josephine was gone.
Then Rose had the tact and resolution to say a few kind, encouraging words to the soldiers, and bid Jacintha be hospitable to them. This done she darted up-stairs after Josephine; she reached the main corridor just in time to see her creep along it with the air and carriage of a woman of fifty, and enter her own room.
Rose followed softly with wet eyes, and turned the handle gently. But the door was locked.
"I want to speak to you. I am frightened. Oh, do not be alone."
A choking voice answered, "Give me a little while to draw my breath." Rose sank down at the door, and sat close to it, with her head against it, sobbing bitterly. She was hurt at not being let in; such a friend as she had proved herself. But this personal feeling was only a fraction of her grief and anxiety.
A good half hour elapsed ere Josephine, pale and stern as no one had ever seen her till that hour, suddenly opened the door. She started at sight of Rose couched sorrowful on the threshold; her stern look relaxed into tender love and pity; she sank, blushing, on her knees, and took her sister's head quickly to her bosom. "Oh, my little love, have you been here all this time?"--"Oh! oh! oh!" was all the little love could reply. Then the deserted one, still kneeling, took Rose in her lap, and caressed and comforted her, and poured words of gratitude and affection over her like a warm shower.
They rose hand in hand.
Then Rose suddenly seized Josephine, and looked long and anxiously down into her eyes. They flashed fire under the scrutiny. "Yes, it is all over; I could not despise and love. I am dead to him, as he is dead to France."
This was joyful news to Rose. "I hoped it would be so," said she; "but you frightened me. My noble sister, were I ever to lose your esteem, I should die. Oh, how awful yet how beautiful is your scorn. For worlds I would not be that Cam"-- Josephine laid her hand imperiously on Rose's mouth. "To mention his name to me will be to insult me; De Beaurepaire I am, and a Frenchwoman. Come, dear, let us go down and comfort our mother."
They went down; and this patient sufferer, and high minded conqueror, of her own accord took up a commonplace book, and read aloud for two mortal hours to her mother and Aubertin. Her voice only wavered twice.
To feel that life is ended; to wish existence, too, had ceased; and so to sit down, an aching hollow, and take a part and sham an interest in twaddle to please others; such are woman's feats. How like nothing at all they look!
A man would rather sit on the buffer of a steam-engine and ride at the Great Redan.
Rose sat at her elbow, a little behind her, and turned the leaves, and on one pretence or other held Josephine's hand nearly all the rest of the day. Its delicate fibres remained tense, like a greyhound's sinews after a race, and the blue veins rose to sight in it, though her voice and eyes were mastered.
So keen was the strife, so matched the antagonists, so hard the victory.
For ire and scorn are mighty. And noble blood in a noble heart is heroic. And Love is a giant.
The French provinces were now organized upon a half military plan, by which all the local authorities radiated towards a centre of government. By-the-by, this feature has survived subsequent revolutions and political changes.
In days of change, youth is at a premium; because, though experience is valuable, the experience of one order of things unfits ordinary men for another order of things. So a good many old fogies in office were shown the door, and a good deal of youth and energy infused into the veins of provincial government. For instance, Edouard Riviere, who had but just completed his education with singular eclat at a military school, was one fine day ordered into Brittany to fill a responsible post under Commandant Raynal, a blunt, rough soldier, that had risen from the ranks, and bore a much higher character for zeal and moral integrity than for affability.
This officer was the son of a widow that kept a grocer's shop in Paris. She intended him for spice, but he thirsted for glory, and vexed her. So she yielded, as mothers will.
In the armies of the republic a good soldier rose with unparalleled certainty, and rapidity, too; for when soldiers are being mowed down like oats, it is a glorious time for such of them as keep their feet. Raynal mounted fast, and used to write to his mother, and joke her about the army being such a bad profession; and, as he was all for glory, not money, he lived with Spartan frugality, and saved half his pay and all his prize money for the old lady in Paris.
But this prosperous man had to endure a deep disappointment; on the very day he was made commandant and one of the general's aides-de-
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