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- WHITE LIES - 40/77 -
Camille," said Josephine.
These words, uttered with gentle warmth, were some consolation to Camille, and confirmed him, as they were intended to do, in the above good resolution. He smiled.
"Maladroit!" muttered Rose.
"Why maladroit?" asked Camille, opening his eyes.
"Let us talk of something else," replied Rose, coolly.
Camille turned red. He understood that he had done something very stupid, but he could not conceive what. He looked from one sister to the other alternately. Rose was smiling ironically, Josephine had her eyes bent demurely on a handkerchief she was embroidering.
That evening Camille drew Rose aside, and asked for an explanation of her "maladroit."
"So it was," replied Rose, sharply.
But as this did not make the matter quite clear, Camille begged a little further explanation.
"Was it your part to make difficulties?"
"Was it for you to tell her a secret marriage would not be delicate? Do you think she will be behind you in delicacy? or that a love without respect will satisfy her? yet you must go and tell her you respected her too much to ask her to marry you secretly. In other words, situated as she is, you asked her not to marry you at all: she consented to that directly; what else could you expect?"
"Maladroit! indeed," said Camille, "but I would not have said it, only I thought"--
"You thought nothing would induce her to marry secretly, so you said to yourself, 'I will assume a virtue: I will do a bit of cheap self- denial: decline to the sound of trumpets what another will be sure to deny me if I don't--ha! ha!'--well, for your comfort, I am by no means so sure she might not have been brought to do ANYTHING for you, except openly defy mamma: but now of course"--
And here this young lady's sentence ended: for the sisters, unlike in most things, were one in grammar.
Camille was so disconcerted and sad at what he had done, that Rose began to pity him: so she rallied him a little longer in spite of her pity: and then all of a sudden gave him her hand, and said she would try and repair the mischief.
He began to smother her hand with kisses.
"Oh!" said she, "I don't deserve all that: I have a motive of my own; let me alone, child, do. Your unlucky speech will be quoted to me a dozen times. Never mind."
Rose went and bribed Josephine to consent.
"Come, mamma shall not know, and as for you, you shall scarcely move in the matter; only do not oppose me very violently, and all will be well."
"Ah, Rose!" said Josephine; "it is delightful--terrible, I mean--to have a little creature about one that reads one like this. What shall I do? What shall I do?"
"Why, do the best you can under all the circumstances. His wound is healed, you know; he must go back to the army; you have both suffered to the limits of mortal endurance. Is he to go away unhappy, in any doubt of your affection? and you to remain behind with the misery of self-reproach added to the desolation of absence?--think."
"It is cruel. But to deceive my mother!"
"Do not say deceive our mother; that is such a shocking phrase."
Rose then reminded Josephine that their confessor had told them a wise reticence was not the same thing as a moral deceit. She reminded her, too, how often they had acted on his advice and always with good effect; how many anxieties and worries they had saved their mother by reticence. Josephine assented warmly to this.
Was there not some reason to think they had saved their mother's very life by these reticences? Josephine assented. "And, Josephine, you are of age; you are your own mistress; you have a right to marry whom you please: and, sooner or later, you will certainly marry Camille. I doubt whether even our mother could prevail on you to refuse him altogether. So it is but a question of time, and of giving our mother pain, or sparing her pain. Dear mamma is old; she is prejudiced. Why shock her prejudices? She could not be brought to understand the case: these things never happened in her day. Everything seems to have gone by rule then. Let us do nothing to worry her for the short time she has to live. Let us take a course between pain to her and cruelty to you and Camille."
These arguments went far to convince Josephine: for her own heart supported them. She went from her solid objections to untenable ones--a great point gained. She urged the difficulty, the impossibility of a secret marriage.
Camille burst in here: he undertook at once to overcome these imaginary difficulties. "They could be married at a distance."
"You will find no priest who will consent to do such a wicked thing as marry us without my mother's knowledge," objected Josephine.
"Oh! as to that," said Rose, "you know the mayor marries people nowadays."
"I will not be married again without a priest," said Josephine, sharply.
"Nor I," said Camille. "I know a mayor who will do the civil forms for me, and a priest who will marry me in the sight of Heaven, and both will keep it secret for love of me till it shall please Josephine to throw off this disguise."
"Who is the priest?" inquired Josephine, keenly.
"An old cure: he lives near Frejus: he was my tutor, and the mayor is the mayor of Frejus, also an old friend of mine."
"But what on earth will you say to them?"
"That is my affair: I must give them some reasons which compel me to keep my marriage secret. Oh! I shall have to tell them some fibs, of course."
"There, I thought so! I will not have you telling fibs; it lowers you."
"Of course it does; but you can't have secrecy without a fib or two."
"Fibs that will injure no one," said Rose, majestically.
From this day Camille began to act as well as to talk. He bought a light caleche and a powerful horse, and elected factotum Dard his groom. Camille rode over to Frejus and told a made-up story to the old cure and the mayor, and these his old friends believed every word he said, and readily promised their services and strict secrecy.
He told the young ladies what he had done.
Rose approved. Josephine shook her head, and seeing matters going as her heart desired and her conscience did not quite approve, she suddenly affected to be next to nobody in the business--to be resigned, passive, and disposed of to her surprise by Queen Rose and King Camille, without herself taking any actual part in their proceedings.
At last the great day arrived on which Camille and Josephine were to be married at Frejus.
The mayor awaited them at eleven o'clock. The cure at twelve. The family had been duly prepared for this excursion by several smaller ones.
Rose announced their intention over night; a part of it.
"Mamma," said she, blushing a little, "Colonel Dujardin is good enough to take us to Frejus tomorrow. It is a long way, and we must breakfast early or we shall not be back to dinner."
"Do so, my child. I hope you will have a fine day: and mind you take plenty of wraps with you in case of a shower."
At seven o'clock the next morning Camille and the two ladies took a hasty cup of coffee together instead of breakfast, and then Dard brought the caleche round.
The ladies got in, and Camille had just taken the reins in his hand, when Jacintha screamed to him from the hall, "Wait a moment, colonel, wait a moment! The doctor! don't go without the doctor!" And the next moment Dr. Aubertin appeared with his cloak on his arm, and, saluting the ladies politely, seated himself quietly in the vehicle before the party had recovered their surprise.
The ladies managed to keep their countenances, but Dujardin's discomfiture was evident.
He looked piteously at Josephine, and then asked Aubertin if they were to set him down anywhere in particular.
"Oh, no; I am going with you to Frejus," was the quiet reply.
Josephine quaked. Camille was devoured with secret rage: he lashed the horse and away they went.
It was a silent party. The doctor seemed in a reverie. The others did not know what to think, much less to say. Aubertin sat by Camille's side; so the latter could hold no secret communication with either lady.
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