"But we are very graethereum calculator pcteful," put in Rose, softly and earnestly.
"Yes," said Jacintha, "under my cloak--look!""Ah! you found the things on the steps?""Yes! I nearly tumbled over them. Have you locked that door?""No, but I will." And Rose glided to the door and locked it. Thenshe put the screen up between Josephine's room and the open panel:bittorrent javathen she and Jacintha were wonderfully busy on the other side thescreen, but presently Rose said, "This is imprudent; you must godown to the foot of the stairs and wait till I call you."Jacintha pleaded hard against this arrangement, and represented thatthere was no earthly chance of any one coming to that part of thechateau.
"No matter; I will be guarded on every side.""Mustn't I stop and just see her happy for once?""No, my poor Jacintha, you must hear it from my lips."Jacintha retired to keep watch as she was bid. Rose went toJosephine's room, and threw her arms round her neck and kissed hervehemently. Josephine returned her embrace, then held her out atarm's length and looked at her."Your eyes are red, yet your little face is full of joy. There, yousmile.""I can't help that; I am so happy.""I am glad of it. Are you coming to bed?""Not yet. I invite you to take a little walk with me first. Come!"and she led the way slowly, looking back with infinite archness andtenderness."You almost frighten me," said Josephine; "it is not like you to beall joy when I am sad. Three whole weeks more!""That is it. Why are you sad? because the doctor would not let yougo to Frejus. And why am I not sad? because I had already thoughtof a way to let you see Edouard without going so far.""Rose! O Rose! O Rose!""This way--come!" and she smiled and beckoned with her finger, whileJosephine followed like one under a spell, her bosom heaving, hereye glancing on every side, hoping some strange joy, yet scarcedaring to hope.Rose drew back the screen, and there was a sweet little berceau thathad once been Josephine's own, and in it, sunk deep in snow-whitelawn, was a sleeping child, that lay there looking as a rose mightlook could it fall upon new-fallen snow.At sight of it Josephine uttered a little cry, not loud but deep--ay, a cry to bring tears into the eye of the hearer, and she stoodtrembling from head to foot, her hands clasped, and her eyefascinated and fixed on the cradle.
"My child under this roof! What have you done?" but her eye,fascinated and fixed, never left the cradle."I saw you languishing, dying, for want of him.""Oh, if anybody should come?" But her eye never stirred an inchfrom the cradle.For the next hundred yards his cheeks burned and his vanity cooled.
But bumptiousness is elastic in France, as in England, and doubtlessamong the Esquimaux. "Well, they are pretty girls," says he tohimself. "I never saw two such pretty girls together; they will dofor me to flirt with while I am banished to this Arcadia." Banishedfrom school, I beg to observe.And "awful beauty" being no longer in sight, Mr. Edouard resolved hewould flirt with them to their hearts' content. But there areladies with whom a certain preliminary is required before you canflirt with them. You must be on speaking terms. How was this to bemanaged?He used to watch at his window with a telescope, and whenever thesisters came out of their own grounds, which unfortunately was notabove twice a week, he would throw himself in their way by themerest accident, and pay them a dignified and courteous salute,which he had carefully got up before a mirror in the privacy of hisown chamber.One day, as he took off his hat to the young ladies, there brokefrom one of them a smile, so sudden, sweet, and vivid, that heseemed to feel it smite him first on the eyes then in the heart. Hecould not sleep for this smile.
Yet he had seen many smilers; but to be sure most of them smiledwithout effect, because they smiled eternally; they seemed cast withtheir mouths open, and their pretty teeth forever in sight; and thishas a saddening influence on a man of sense--when it has any. Buthere a fair, pensive face had brightened at sight of him; a lovelycountenance, on which circumstances, not nature, had impressedgravity, had sprung back to its natural gayety for a moment, and hadthrilled and bewitched the beholder.The next Sunday he went to church--and there worshipped--whom?
Cupid. He smarted for his heathenism; for the young ladies wentwith higher motives, and took no notice of him. They lowered theirlong silken lashes over one breviary, and scarcely observed thehandsome citizen. Meantime he, contemplating their pious beautywith earthly eyes, was drinking long draughts of intoxicatingpassion. And when after the service they each took an arm of Dr.Aubertin, and he with the air of an admiral convoying two shipschoke-full of specie, conducted his precious charge away home, ouryoung citizen felt jealous, and all but hated the worthy doctor.This went on till he became listless and dejected on the days he didnot see them. Then he asked himself whether he was not a cowardlyfool to keep at such a distance. After all he was a man inauthority. His friendship was not to be despised, least of all by afamily suspected of disaffection to the state.He put on his glossy beaver with enormous brim, high curved; hisblue coat with brass buttons; his white waistcoat, gray breeches,and top-boots; and marched up to the chateau of Beaurepaire, andsent in his card with his name and office inscribed.
Jacintha took it, bestowed a glance of undisguised admiration on theyoung Adonis, and carried it to the baroness. That lady sent herpromptly down again with a black-edged note to this effect.Highly flattered by Monsieur de Riviere's visit, the baroness mustinform him that she receives none but old acquaintances, in thepresent grief of the family, and of the KINGDOM.Young Riviere was cruelly mortified by this rebuff. He went offhurriedly, grinding his teeth with rage."Cursed aristocrats! We have done well to pull you down, and wewill have you lower still. How I despise myself for giving any onethe chance to affront me thus. The haughty old fool; if she hadknown her interest, she would have been too glad to make a powerfulfriend. These royalists are in a ticklish position; I can tell herthat. She calls me De Riviere; that implies nobody without a 'De'
to their name would have the presumption to visit her old tumble-down house. Well, it is a lesson; I am a republican, and theCommonwealth trusts and honors me; yet I am so ungrateful as to goout of the way to be civil to her enemies, to royalists; as if thoseworn-out creatures had hearts, as if they could comprehend thestruggle that took place in my mind between duty, and generosity tothe fallen, before I could make the first overture to theiracquaintance; as if they could understand the politeness of theheart, or anything nobler than curving and ducking and heartlessetiquette. This is the last notice I will ever take of that oldwoman, unless it is to denounce her."He walked home to the town very fast, his heart boiling, and hislips compressed, and his brow knitted.To this mood succeeded a sullen and bitter one. He was generous,but vain, and his love had humiliated him so bitterly, he resolvedto tear it out of his heart. He absented himself from church; hemet the young ladies no more. He struggled fiercely with hispassion; he went about dogged, silent, and sighing. Presently hedevoted his leisure hours to shooting partridges instead of ladies.
And he was right; partridges cannot shoot back; whereas beautifulwomen, like Cupid, are all archers more or less, and often with onearrow from eye or lip do more execution than they have suffered fromseveral discharges of our small shot.In these excursions, Edouard was generally accompanied by a thick-set rustic called Dard, who, I believe, purposes to reveal his owncharacter to you, and so save me that trouble.
One fine afternoon, about four o'clock, this pair burst remorselesslythrough a fence, and landed in the road opposite Bigot's Auberge; along low house, with "ICI ON LOGE A PIED ET A CHEVAL," written allacross it in gigantic letters. Riviere was for moving homeward,but Dard halted and complained dismally of "the soldier's gripes."The statesman had never heard of that complaint, so Dard explainedthat the VULGAR name for it was hunger. "And only smell," said he,"the soup is just fit to come off the fire."Riviere smiled sadly, but consented to deign to eat a morsel in theporch. Thereat Dard dashed wildly into the kitchen.They dined at one little round table, each after his fashion. WhenDard could eat no more, he proceeded to drink; and to talk inproportion. Riviere, lost in his own thoughts, attended to him asmen of business do to a babbling brook; until suddenly from the massof twaddle broke forth a magic word--Beaurepaire; then the languidlover pricked up his ears and found Mr. Dard was abusing that noblefamily right and left. Young Riviere inquired what ground ofoffence they had given HIM. "I'll tell you," said Dard; "theyimpose on Jacintha; and so she imposes on me." Then observing hehad at last gained his employer's ear, he became prodigiouslyloquacious, as such people generally are when once they get upontheir own griefs."These Beaurepaire aristocrats," said he, with his hard peasantgood-sense, "are neither the one thing nor the other; they cannotkeep up nobility, they have not the means; they will not come downoff their perch, they have not the sense. No, for as small as theyare, they must look and talk as big as ever. They can only affordone servant, and I don't believe they pay her; but they must beattended on just as obsequious as when they had a dozen. And thisis fatal to all us little people that have the misfortune to beconnected with them.""Why, how are you connected with them?""By the tie of affection.""I thought you hated them.""Of course I do; but I have the ill-luck to love Jacintha, and sheloves these aristocrats, and makes me do little odd jobs for them."And at this Dard's eyes suddenly glared with horror."Well, what of that?" asked Riviere."What of it, citizen, what? you do not know the fatal meaning ofthose accursed words?""Why, I never heard of a man's back being broken by little oddjobs.""Perhaps not his back, citizen, but his heart? if little odd jobswill not break that, why nothing will. Torn from place to place,and from trouble to trouble; as soon as one tiresome thing begins togo a bit smooth, off to a fresh plague, in-doors work when it isdry, out-a-doors when it snows; and then all bustle; no taking one'swork quietly, the only way it agrees with a fellow. 'Milk the cow,Dard, but look sharp; the baroness's chair wants mending. Takethese slops to the pig, but you must not wait to see him enjoy them:you are wanted to chop billets.' Beat the mats, take down thecurtains, walk to church (best part of a league), and heat the pewcushions; come back and cut the cabbages, paint the door, and wheelthe old lady about the terrace, rub quicksilver on the little dog'sback,--mind he don't bite you to make hisself sick,--repair theottoman, roll the gravel, scour the kettles, carry half a ton ofwater up twopurostairs, trim the turf, prune the vine, drag thefish-pond; and when you ARE there, go in and gather water lilies forMademoiselle Josephine while you are drowning the puppies; that islittle odd jobs: may Satan twist her neck who invented them!""Very sad all this," said young Riviere.
Dard took the little sneer for sympathy, and proceeded to "thecruellest wrong of all.""When I go into their kitchen to court Jacintha a bit, instead offinding a good supper there, which a man has a right to, courting acook, if I don't take one in my pocket, there is no supper, not tosay supper, for either her or me. I don't call a salad and a bit ofcheese-rind--SUPPER. Beggars in silk and satin! Every sou theyhave goes on to their backs, instead of into their bellies.""I have heard their income is much reduced," said Edouard gently."Income! I would not change with them if they'd throw me in half apancake a day. I tell you they are the poorest family for leaguesround; not that they need be quite so starved, if they could swallowa little of their pride. But no, they must have china and plate andfine linen at dinner; so their fine plates are always bare, andtheir silver trays empty. Ask the butcher, if you don't believe ME.
Just you ask him whether he does not go three times to the smallestshopkeeper, for once he goes to Beaurepaire. Their tenants sendthem a little meal and eggs, and now and then a hen; and their greatgarden is chock full of fruit and vegetables, and Jacintha makes medig in it gratis; and so they muddle on. But, bless your heart,coffee! they can't afford it; so they roast a lot of horse-beansthat cost nothing, and grind them, and serve up the liquor in asilver coffee-pot, on a silver salver. Haw, haw, haw!""Is it possible? reduced to this?" said Edouard gravely."Don't you be so weak as to pity them," cried the remorselessplebeian. "Why don't they melt their silver into soup, and cut downtheir plate into rashers of bacon? why not sell the superfluous, andbuy the needful, which it is grub? And, above all, why don't theylet their old tumble-down palace to some rich grocer, and thataccursed garden along with it, where I sweat gratis, and live smalland comfortable, and pay honest men for their little odd jobs, and"--Here Riviere interrupted him, and asked if it was really trueabout the beans.
"True?" said Dard, "why, I have seen Rose doing it for the oldwoman's breakfast: it was Rose invented the move. A girl ofnineteen beginning already to deceive the world! But they are alltarred with the same stick. Down with the aristocrats!""Dard," said Riviere, "you are a brute.""Me, citizen?" inquired Dard with every appearance of genuinesurprise.Edouard Riviere rose from his seat in great excitement. Dard'sabuse of the family he was lately so bitter against had turned himright round. He pitied the very baroness herself, and forgave herdeclining his visit.
"Be silent," said he, "for shame! There is such a thing as noblepoverty; and you have described it. I might have disdained thesepeople in their prosperity, but I revere them in their affliction.And I'll tell you what, don't you ever dare to speak slightly ofthem again in my presence, or"--He did not conclude his threat, for just then he observed that astrapping girl, with a basket at her feet, was standing against thecorner of the Auberge, in a mighty careless attitude, but doingnothing, so most likely listening with all her ears and soul. Dard,however, did not see her, his back being turned to her as he sat; sohe replied at his ease,--"I consent," said he very coolly: "that is your affair; but permitme," and here he clenched his teeth at remembrance of his wrongs,"to say that I will no more be a scullery man without wages to thesehigh-minded starvelings, these illustrious beggars." Then he heatedhimself red-hot. "I will not even be their galley slave. Next, Ihave done my last little odd job in this world," yelled the nowinfuriated factotum, bouncing up to his feet in brief fury. "Of twothings one: either Jacintha quits those aristos, or I leave Jacin--eh?--ah!--oh!--ahem! How--'ow d'ye do, Jacintha?" And his roarended in a whine, as when a dog runs barking out, and receives infull career a cut from his master's whip, his generous rage turns towhimper with ludicrous abruptness. "I was just talking of you,Jacintha," quavered Dard in conclusion."I heard you, Dard," replied Jacintha slowly, softly, grimly.Dard withered.
It was a lusty young woman, with a comely peasant face somewhatfreckled, and a pair of large black eyes surmounted by coal-blackbrows. She stood in a bold attitude, her massive but well-formedarms folded so that the pressure of each against the other made themseem gigantic, and her cheek red with anger, and her eyes glisteninglike basilisks upon citizen Dard. She looked so grand, with herlowering black brows, that even Riviere felt a little uneasy. Asfor Jacintha, she was evidently brooding with more ire than shechose to utter before a stranger. She just slowly unclasped herarms, and, keeping her eye fixed on Dard, pointed with a domineeringgesture towards Beaurepaire. Then the doughty Dard seemed no longermaster of his limbs: he rose slowly, with his eyes fastened to hers,and was moving off like an ill-oiled automaton in the directionindicated; but at that a suppressed snigger began to shake Riviere'swhole body till it bobbed up and down on the seat. Dard turned tohim for sympathy."There, citizen," he cried, "do you see that imperious gesture?
That means you promised to dig in the aristocrat's garden thisafternoon, so march! Here, then, is one that has gained nothing bykings being put down, for I am ruled with a mopstick of iron. Thankyour stars, citizen, that you are not in may place.""Dard," retorted Jacintha, "if you don't like your place, I'd quitit. There are two or three young men down in the village will beglad to take it.""I won't give them the chance, the vile egotists!" cried Dard. Andhe returned to the chateau and little odd jobs.Jacintha hung behind, lowered her eyes, put on a very deferentialmanner, and thanked Edouard for the kind sentiments he had uttered;but at the same time she took the liberty to warn him againstbelieving the extravagant stories Dard had been telling about hermistress's poverty. She said the simple fact was that the baron hadcontracted debts, and the baroness, being the soul of honor, wasliving in great economy to pay them off. Then, as to Dard gettingno supper up at Beaurepaire, a complaint that appeared to sting herparticularly, she assured him she was alone to blame: the baronesswould be very angry if she knew it. "But," said she, "Dard is anegotist. Perhaps you may have noticed that trait in him.""Glimpses of it," replied Riviere, laughing.
"Monsieur, he is so egotistic that he has not a friend in the worldbut me. I forgive him, because I know the reason; he has never hada headache or a heartache in his life."Edouard, aged twenty, and a male, did not comprehend this piece offeminine logic one bit: and, while he puzzled over it in silence,Jacintha went on to say that if she were to fill her egotist'spaunch, she should never know whether he came to Beaurepaire forher, or himself. "Now, Dard," she added, "is no beauty, monsieur;why, he is three inches shorter than I am.""You are joking! he looks a foot," said Edouard."He is no scholar neither, and I have had to wipe up many a sneerand many a sarcasm on his account; but up to now I have always beenable to reply that this five feet one of egotism loves me sincerely;and the moment I doubt this, I give him the sack,--poor littlefellow!""In a word," said Riviere, a little impatiently, "the family atBeaurepaire are not in such straits as he pretends?""Monsieur, do I look like one starved?""By Jove, no! by Ceres, I mean.""Are my young mistresses wan, and thin?""Treason! blasphemy! ah, no! By Venus and Hebe, no!"Jacintha smiled at this enthusiastic denial, and also because hersex is apt to smile when words are used they do not understand.
"Dard is a fool," suggested Riviere, by way of general solution. Headded, "And yet, do you know I wish every word he said had beentrue." (Jacintha's eyes expressed some astonishment.) "Becausethen you and I would have concerted means to do them kindnesses,secretly; for I see you are no ordinary servant; you love your youngmistresses. Do you not?"These simple words seemed to touch a grander chord in Jacintha'snature."Love them?" said she, clasping her hands; "ah, sir, do not beoffended; but, believe me, it is no small thing to serve an old, oldfamily. My grandfather lived and died with them; my father wastheir gamekeeper, and fed to his last from off the poor baron'splate (and now they have killed him, poor man); my mother died inthe house and was buried in the sacred ground near the familychapel. They put an inscription on her tomb praising her fidelityand probity. Do you think these things do not sink into the heartof the poor?--praise on her tomb, and not a word on their own, butjust the name, and when each was born and died, you know. Ah! thepride of the mean is dirt; but the pride of the noble is gold.""For, look you, among parvenues I should be a servant, and nothingmore; in this proud family I am a humble friend; of course they arenot always gossiping with me like vulgar masters and mistresses; ifthey did, I should neither respect nor love them; but they all smileon me whenever I come into the room, even the baroness herself. Ibelong to them, and they belong to me, by ties without number, bythe many kind words in many troubles, by the one roof that shelteredus a hundred years, and the grave where our bones lie together tillthe day of judgment."** The French peasant often thinks half a sentence, and utters theother half aloud, and so breaks air in the middle of a thought.Probably Jacintha's whole thought, if we had the means of knowingit, would have run like this--Besides, I have another reason: Icould not be so comfortable myself elsewhere--for, look you"--Jacintha clasped her hands, and her black eyes shone out warmthrough the dew. Riviere's glistened too."That is well said," he cried; "it is nobly said: yet, after all,these are ties that owe their force to the souls they bind. Howoften have such bonds round human hearts proved ropes of sand! Theygrapple YOU like hooks of steel; because you are steel yourself tothe backbone. I admire you, Jacintha. Such women as you have agreat mission in France just now."Jacintha shook her head incredulously. "What can we poor women do?""Bring forth heroes," cried Publicola with fervor. "Be the mothersof great men, the Catos and the Gracchi of the future!"Jacintha smiled. She did not know the Gracchi nor their politics;but the name rang well. "Gracchi!" Aristocrats, no doubt. "Thatwould be too much honor," replied she modestly. "At present, I mustsay adieu!" and she moved off an inch at a time, in an uncertainhesitating manner, not very difficult to read; but Riviere, you mustknow, had more than once during this interview begged her to sitdown, and in vain; she had always thanked him, but said she had nota moment to stay. So he made no effort to detain her now. Theconsequence was--she came slowly back of her own accord, and satdown in a corner of the porch, where nobody could see her, and thenshe sighed deeply.
"What is the matter now?" said Edouard, opening his eyes.She looked at him point-blank for one moment; and her scale turned.
"Monsieur," said she timidly, "you have a good face, and a goodheart. All I told you was--give me your honor not to betray us.""I swear it," said Edouard, a little pompously."Then--Dard was not so far from the truth; it was but a guess ofhis, for I never trusted my own sweetheart as I now trust astranger. But to see what I see every day, and have no one I darebreathe a word to, oh, it is very hard! But on what a thread thingsturn! If any one had told me an hour ago it was you I should openmy heart to! It's not economy: it's not stinginess; they are notpaying off their debts. They never can. The baroness and theDemoiselles de Beaurepaire--are paupers.""Paupers, Jacintha?""Ay, paupers! their debts are greater than their means. They livehere by sufferance. They have only their old clothes to wear. Theyhave hardly enough to eat. Just now our cow is in full milk, youknow; so that is a great help: but, when she goes dry, Heaven knowswhat we shall do; for I don't. But that is not the worst; better alight meal than a broken heart. Your precious government offers thechateau for sale. They might as well send for the guillotine atonce, and cut off all our heads. You don't know my mistress as Ido. Ah, butchers, you will drag nothing out of that but her corpse.
And is it come to this? the great old family to be turned adriftlike beggars. My poor mistress! my pretty demoiselles that I playedwith and nursed ever since I was a child! (I was just six whenJosephine was born) and that I shall love with my last breath"--She could say no more, but choked by the strong feeling so long pentup in her own bosom, fell to sobbing hysterically, and tremblinglike one in an ague.The statesman, who had passed all his short life at school andcollege, was frightened, and took hold of her and pulled her, andcried, "Oh! don't, Jacintha; you will kill yourself, you will die;this is frightful: help here! help!" Jacintha put her hand to hismouth, and, without leaving off her hysterics, gasped out, "Ah!