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CHAPTER II.


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-
camp, came a letter into the camp. His mother was dead after a
short illness. This was a terrible blow to the simple, rugged
soldier, who had never had much time nor inclination to flirt with a
lot of girls, and toughen his heart. He came back to Paris honored
and rich, but downcast. The old home, empty of his mother, seemed
to him not to have the old look. It made him sadder. To cheer him
up they brought him much money. The widow's trade had taken a
wonderful start the last few years, and she had been playing the
same game as he had, living on ten-pence a day, and saving all for
him. This made him sadder, if anything.

"What," said he, "have we both been scraping all this dross together
for? I would give it all to sit one hour by the fire, with her hand
in mine, and hear her say, 'Scamp, you made me unhappy when you were
young, but I have lived to be proud of you.'"

He applied for active service, no matter what: obtained at once this
post in Brittany, and threw himself into it with that honest zeal
and activity, which are the best earthly medicine for all our
griefs. He was busy writing, when young Riviere first presented
himself. He looked up for a moment, and eyed him, to take his
measure; then put into his hand a report by young Nicole, a
subordinate filling a post of the same nature as Riviere's; and bade
him analyze that report on the spot: with this he instantly resumed
his own work.

Edouard Riviere was an adept at this sort of task, and soon handed
him a neat analysis. Raynal ran his eye over it, nodded cold
approval, and told him to take this for the present as a guide as to
his own duties. He then pointed to a map on which Riviere's
district was marked in blue ink, and bade him find the centre of it.
Edouard took a pair of compasses off the table, and soon discovered
that the village of Beaurepaire was his centre. "Then quarter
yourself at Beaurepaire; and good-day," said Raynal.

The chateau was in sight from Riviere's quarters, and he soon
learned that it belonged to a royalist widow and her daughters, who
all three held themselves quite aloof from the rest of the world.
"Ah," said the young citizen, "I see. If these rococo citizens play
that game with me, I shall have to take them down." Thus a fresh
peril menaced this family, on whose hearts and fortunes such heavy
blows had fallen.

One evening our young official, after a day spent in the service of
the country, deigned to take a little stroll to relieve the cares of
administration. He imprinted on his beardless face the expression
of a wearied statesman, and strolled through an admiring village.
The men pretended veneration from policy; the women, whose views of
this great man were shallower but more sincere, smiled approval of
his airs; and the young puppy affected to take no notice of either
sex.

Outside the village, Publicola suddenly encountered two young
ladies, who resembled nothing he had hitherto met with in his
district; they were dressed in black, and with extreme simplicity;
but their easy grace and composure, and the refined sentiment of
their gentle faces, told at a glance they belonged to the high
nobility. Publicola divined them at once, and involuntarily raised
his hat to so much beauty and dignity, instead of poking it with a
finger as usual. On this the ladies instantly courtesied to him
after the manner of their party, with a sweep and a majesty, and a
precision of politeness, that the pup would have laughed at if he
had heard of it; but seeing it done, and well done, and by lovely
women of rank, he was taken aback by it, and lifted his hat again,
and bowed again after he had gone by, and was generally flustered.
In short, instead of a member of the Consular Government saluting
private individuals of a decayed party that existed only by
sufferance, a handsome, vain, good-natured boy had met two self-
possessed young ladies of distinction and breeding, and had cut the
usual figure.

For the next hundred yards his cheeks burned and his vanity cooled.
But bumptiousness is elastic in France, as in England, and doubtless
among the Esquimaux. "Well, they are pretty girls," says he to
himself. "I never saw two such pretty girls together; they will do
for me to flirt with while I am banished to this Arcadia." Banished
from school, I beg to observe.

And "awful beauty" being no longer in sight, Mr. Edouard resolved he
would flirt with them to their hearts' content. But there are
ladies with whom a certain preliminary is required before you can
flirt with them. You must be on speaking terms. How was this to be
managed?

He used to watch at his window with a telescope, and whenever the
sisters came out of their own grounds, which unfortunately was not
above twice a week, he would throw himself in their way by the
merest accident, and pay them a dignified and courteous salute,
which he had carefully got up before a mirror in the privacy of his
own chamber.

One day, as he took off his hat to the young ladies, there broke
from one of them a smile, so sudden, sweet, and vivid, that he
seemed to feel it smite him first on the eyes then in the heart. He
could not sleep for this smile.

Yet he had seen many smilers; but to be sure most of them smiled
without effect, because they smiled eternally; they seemed cast with
their mouths open, and their pretty teeth forever in sight; and this
has a saddening influence on a man of sense--when it has any. But
here a fair, pensive face had brightened at sight of him; a lovely
countenance, on which circumstances, not nature, had impressed
gravity, had sprung back to its natural gayety for a moment, and had
thrilled 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 went
with higher motives, and took no notice of him. They lowered their
long silken lashes over one breviary, and scarcely observed the
handsome citizen. Meantime he, contemplating their pious beauty
with earthly eyes, was drinking long draughts of intoxicating
passion. And when after the service they each took an arm of Dr.
Aubertin, and he with the air of an admiral convoying two ships
choke-full of specie, conducted his precious charge away home, our
young citizen felt jealous, and all but hated the worthy doctor.

This went on till he became listless and dejected on the days he did
not see them. Then he asked himself whether he was not a cowardly
fool to keep at such a distance. After all he was a man in
authority. His friendship was not to be despised, least of all by a
family suspected of disaffection to the state.

He put on his glossy beaver with enormous brim, high curved; his
blue coat with brass buttons; his white waistcoat, gray breeches,
and top-boots; and marched up to the chateau of Beaurepaire, and
sent in his card with his name and office inscribed.

Jacintha took it, bestowed a glance of undisguised admiration on the
young Adonis, and carried it to the baroness. That lady sent her
promptly down again with a black-edged note to this effect.


Highly flattered by Monsieur de Riviere's visit, the baroness must
inform him that she receives none but old acquaintances, in the
present grief of the family, and of the KINGDOM.


Young Riviere was cruelly mortified by this rebuff. He went off
hurriedly, grinding his teeth with rage.

"Cursed aristocrats! We have done well to pull you down, and we
will have you lower still. How I despise myself for giving any one
the chance to affront me thus. The haughty old fool; if she had
known her interest, she would have been too glad to make a powerful
friend. These royalists are in a ticklish position; I can tell her
that. 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 the
Commonwealth trusts and honors me; yet I am so ungrateful as to go
out of the way to be civil to her enemies, to royalists; as if those
worn-out creatures had hearts, as if they could comprehend the
struggle that took place in my mind between duty, and generosity to
the fallen, before I could make the first overture to their
acquaintance; as if they could understand the politeness of the
heart, or anything nobler than curving and ducking and heartless
etiquette. This is the last notice I will ever take of that old
woman, unless it is to denounce her."

He walked home to the town very fast, his heart boiling, and his
lips 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 resolved
to tear it out of his heart. He absented himself from church; he
met the young ladies no more. He struggled fiercely with his
passion; he went about dogged, silent, and sighing. Presently he
devoted his leisure hours to shooting partridges instead of ladies.
And he was right; partridges cannot shoot back; whereas beautiful
women, like Cupid, are all archers more or less, and often with one
arrow from eye or lip do more execution than they have suffered from
several 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 own
character to you, and so save me that trouble.

One fine afternoon, about four o'clock, this pair burst remorselessly
through a fence, and landed in the road opposite Bigot's Auberge; a
long low house, with "ICI ON LOGE A PIED ET A CHEVAL," written all
across 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 explained
that 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 the
porch. Thereat Dard dashed wildly into the kitchen.

They dined at one little round table, each after his fashion. When
Dard could eat no more, he proceeded to drink; and to talk in
proportion. Riviere, lost in his own thoughts, attended to him as
men of business do to a babbling brook; until suddenly from the mass
of twaddle broke forth a magic word--Beaurepaire; then the languid
lover pricked up his ears and found Mr. Dard was abusing that noble
family right and left. Young Riviere inquired what ground of
offence they had given HIM. "I'll tell you," said Dard; "they
impose on Jacintha; and so she imposes on me." Then observing he
had at last gained his employer's ear, he became prodigiously
loquacious, as such people generally are when once they get upon
their own griefs.

"These Beaurepaire aristocrats," said he, with his hard peasant
good-sense, "are neither the one thing nor the other; they cannot
keep up nobility, they have not the means; they will not come down
off their perch, they have not the sense. No, for as small as they
are, they must look and talk as big as ever. They can only afford
one servant, and I don't believe they pay her; but they must be
attended on just as obsequious as when they had a dozen. And this
is fatal to all us little people that have the misfortune to be
connected 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 she
loves 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 of
those accursed words?"

"Why, I never heard of a man's back being broken by little odd
jobs."

"Perhaps not his back, citizen, but his heart? if little odd jobs
will not break that, why nothing will. Torn from place to place,
and from trouble to trouble; as soon as one tiresome thing begins to
go a bit smooth, off to a fresh plague, in-doors work when it is
dry, out-a-doors when it snows; and then all bustle; no taking one's
work quietly, the only way it agrees with a fellow. 'Milk the cow,
Dard, but look sharp; the baroness's chair wants mending. Take
these 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 the
curtains, walk to church (best part of a league), and heat the pew
cushions; come back and cut the cabbages, paint the door, and wheel
the old lady about the terrace, rub quicksilver on the little dog's
back,--mind he don't bite you to make hisself sick,--repair the
ottoman, roll the gravel, scour the kettles, carry half a ton of
water up twopurostairs, trim the turf, prune the vine, drag the
fish-pond; and when you ARE there, go in and gather water lilies for
Mademoiselle Josephine while you are drowning the puppies; that is
little 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 "the
cruellest wrong of all."

"When I go into their kitchen to court Jacintha a bit, instead of
finding a good supper there, which a man has a right to, courting a
cook, if I don't take one in my pocket, there is no supper, not to
say supper, for either her or me. I don't call a salad and a bit of
cheese-rind--SUPPER. Beggars in silk and satin! Every sou they
have 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 a
pancake a day. I tell you they are the poorest family for leagues
round; not that they need be quite so starved, if they could swallow
a little of their pride. But no, they must have china and plate and
fine linen at dinner; so their fine plates are always bare, and
their 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 smallest
shopkeeper, for once he goes to Beaurepaire. Their tenants send
them a little meal and eggs, and now and then a hen; and their great
garden is chock full of fruit and vegetables, and Jacintha makes me
dig 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-beans
that cost nothing, and grind them, and serve up the liquor in a
silver 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 remorseless
plebeian. "Why don't they melt their silver into soup, and cut down
their plate into rashers of bacon? why not sell the superfluous, and
buy the needful, which it is grub? And, above all, why don't they
let their old tumble-down palace to some rich grocer, and that
accursed garden along with it, where I sweat gratis, and live small
and comfortable, and pay honest men for their little odd jobs, and"--

Here Riviere interrupted him, and asked if it was really true
about the beans.

"True?" said Dard, "why, I have seen Rose doing it for the old
woman's breakfast: it was Rose invented the move. A girl of
nineteen beginning already to deceive the world! But they are all
tarred with the same stick. Down with the aristocrats!"

"Dard," said Riviere, "you are a brute."

"Me, citizen?" inquired Dard with every appearance of genuine
surprise.

Edouard Riviere rose from his seat in great excitement. Dard's
abuse of the family he was lately so bitter against had turned him
right round. He pitied the very baroness herself, and forgave her
declining his visit.

"Be silent," said he, "for shame! There is such a thing as noble
poverty; and you have described it. I might have disdained these
people in their prosperity, but I revere them in their affliction.
And I'll tell you what, don't you ever dare to speak slightly of
them again in my presence, or"--

He did not conclude his threat, for just then he observed that a
strapping girl, with a basket at her feet, was standing against the
corner of the Auberge, in a mighty careless attitude, but doing
nothing, 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; so
he replied at his ease,--

"I consent," said he very coolly: "that is your affair; but permit
me," 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 these
high-minded starvelings, these illustrious beggars." Then he heated
himself red-hot. "I will not even be their galley slave. Next, I
have done my last little odd job in this world," yelled the now
infuriated factotum, bouncing up to his feet in brief fury. "Of two
things one: either Jacintha quits those aristos, or I leave Jacin--
eh?--ah!--oh!--ahem! How--'ow d'ye do, Jacintha?" And his roar
ended in a whine, as when a dog runs barking out, and receives in
full career a cut from his master's whip, his generous rage turns to
whimper 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 somewhat
freckled, and a pair of large black eyes surmounted by coal-black
brows. She stood in a bold attitude, her massive but well-formed
arms folded so that the pressure of each against the other made them
seem gigantic, and her cheek red with anger, and her eyes glistening
like basilisks upon citizen Dard. She looked so grand, with her
lowering black brows, that even Riviere felt a little uneasy. As
for Jacintha, she was evidently brooding with more ire than she
chose to utter before a stranger. She just slowly unclasped her
arms, and, keeping her eye fixed on Dard, pointed with a domineering
gesture towards Beaurepaire. Then the doughty Dard seemed no longer
master of his limbs: he rose slowly, with his eyes fastened to hers,
and was moving off like an ill-oiled automaton in the direction
indicated; but at that a suppressed snigger began to shake Riviere's
whole body till it bobbed up and down on the seat. Dard turned to
him for sympathy.

"There, citizen," he cried, "do you see that imperious gesture?
That means you promised to dig in the aristocrat's garden this
afternoon, so march! Here, then, is one that has gained nothing by
kings being put down, for I am ruled with a mopstick of iron. Thank
your stars, citizen, that you are not in may place."

"Dard," retorted Jacintha, "if you don't like your place, I'd quit
it. There are two or three young men down in the village will be
glad to take it."

"I won't give them the chance, the vile egotists!" cried Dard. And
he returned to the chateau and little odd jobs.

Jacintha hung behind, lowered her eyes, put on a very deferential
manner, and thanked Edouard for the kind sentiments he had uttered;
but at the same time she took the liberty to warn him against
believing the extravagant stories Dard had been telling about her
mistress's poverty. She said the simple fact was that the baron had
contracted debts, and the baroness, being the soul of honor, was
living in great economy to pay them off. Then, as to Dard getting
no supper up at Beaurepaire, a complaint that appeared to sting her
particularly, she assured him she was alone to blame: the baroness
would be very angry if she knew it. "But," said she, "Dard is an
egotist. 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 world
but me. I forgive him, because I know the reason; he has never had
a headache or a heartache in his life."

Edouard, aged twenty, and a male, did not comprehend this piece of
feminine logic one bit: and, while he puzzled over it in silence,
Jacintha went on to say that if she were to fill her egotist's
paunch, she should never know whether he came to Beaurepaire for
her, 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 sneer
and many a sarcasm on his account; but up to now I have always been
able to reply that this five feet one of egotism loves me sincerely;
and the moment I doubt this, I give him the sack,--poor little
fellow!"

"In a word," said Riviere, a little impatiently, "the family at
Beaurepaire 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 her
sex is apt to smile when words are used they do not understand.

"Dard is a fool," suggested Riviere, by way of general solution. He
added, "And yet, do you know I wish every word he said had been
true." (Jacintha's eyes expressed some astonishment.) "Because
then you and I would have concerted means to do them kindnesses,
secretly; for I see you are no ordinary servant; you love your young
mistresses. Do you not?"

These simple words seemed to touch a grander chord in Jacintha's
nature.

"Love them?" said she, clasping her hands; "ah, sir, do not be
offended; but, believe me, it is no small thing to serve an old, old
family. My grandfather lived and died with them; my father was
their gamekeeper, and fed to his last from off the poor baron's
plate (and now they have killed him, poor man); my mother died in
the house and was buried in the sacred ground near the family
chapel. They put an inscription on her tomb praising her fidelity
and probity. Do you think these things do not sink into the heart
of the poor?--praise on her tomb, and not a word on their own, but
just the name, and when each was born and died, you know. Ah! the
pride of the mean is dirt; but the pride of the noble is gold."

"For, look you, among parvenues I should be a servant, and nothing
more; in this proud family I am a humble friend; of course they are
not always gossiping with me like vulgar masters and mistresses; if
they did, I should neither respect nor love them; but they all smile
on me whenever I come into the room, even the baroness herself. I
belong to them, and they belong to me, by ties without number, by
the many kind words in many troubles, by the one roof that sheltered
us a hundred years, and the grave where our bones lie together till
the day of judgment."*


* The French peasant often thinks half a sentence, and utters the
other half aloud, and so breaks air in the middle of a thought.
Probably Jacintha's whole thought, if we had the means of knowing
it, would have run like this--Besides, I have another reason: I
could not be so comfortable myself elsewhere--for, look you"--


Jacintha clasped her hands, and her black eyes shone out warm
through 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. How
often have such bonds round human hearts proved ropes of sand! They
grapple YOU like hooks of steel; because you are steel yourself to
the backbone. I admire you, Jacintha. Such women as you have a
great 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 mothers
of 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. "That
would be too much honor," replied she modestly. "At present, I must
say adieu!" and she moved off an inch at a time, in an uncertain
hesitating manner, not very difficult to read; but Riviere, you must
know, had more than once during this interview begged her to sit
down, and in vain; she had always thanked him, but said she had not
a moment to stay. So he made no effort to detain her now. The
consequence was--she came slowly back of her own accord, and sat
down in a corner of the porch, where nobody could see her, and then
she 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 good
heart. 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 of
his, for I never trusted my own sweetheart as I now trust a
stranger. But to see what I see every day, and have no one I dare
breathe a word to, oh, it is very hard! But on what a thread things
turn! If any one had told me an hour ago it was you I should open
my heart to! It's not economy: it's not stinginess; they are not
paying off their debts. They never can. The baroness and the
Demoiselles de Beaurepaire--are paupers."

"Paupers, Jacintha?"

"Ay, paupers! their debts are greater than their means. They live
here by sufferance. They have only their old clothes to wear. They
have hardly enough to eat. Just now our cow is in full milk, you
know; so that is a great help: but, when she goes dry, Heaven knows
what we shall do; for I don't. But that is not the worst; better a
light meal than a broken heart. Your precious government offers the
chateau for sale. They might as well send for the guillotine at
once, and cut off all our heads. You don't know my mistress as I
do. 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 adrift
like beggars. My poor mistress! my pretty demoiselles that I played
with and nursed ever since I was a child! (I was just six when
Josephine was born) and that I shall love with my last breath"--

She could say no more, but choked by the strong feeling so long pent
up in her own bosom, fell to sobbing hysterically, and trembling
like one in an ague.

The statesman, who had passed all his short life at school and
college, was frightened, and took hold of her and pulled her, and
cried, "Oh! don't, Jacintha; you will kill yourself, you will die;
this is frightful: help here! help!" Jacintha put her hand to his
mouth, and, without leaving off her hysterics, gasped out, "Ah!
don't expose me." So then he didn't know what to do; but he seized
a tumbler and filled it with wine, and forced it between her lips.
All she did was to bite a piece out of the glass as clean as if a
diamond had cut it. This did her a world of good: destruction of
sacred household property gave her another turn. "There, I've broke
your glass now," she cried, with a marvellous change of tone; and
she came-to and cried quietly like a reasonable person, with her
apron to her eyes.

When Edouard saw she was better, he took her hand and said proudly,
"Secret for secret. I choose this moment to confide to you that I
love Mademoiselle Rose de Beaurepaire. Love her? I did love her;
but now you tell me she is poor and in distress, I adore her." The
effect of this declaration on Jacintha was magical, comical. Her
apron came down from one eye, and that eye dried itself and sparkled
with curiosity: the whole countenance speedily followed suit and
beamed with sacred joy. What! an interesting love affair confided
to her all in a moment! She lowered her voice to a whisper
directly. "Why, how did you manage? She never goes into company."

"No; but she goes to church. Besides, I have met her eleven times
out walking with her sister, and twice out of the eleven she smiled
on me. O Jacintha! a smile such as angels smile; a smile to warm
the heart and purify the soul and last forever in the mind."

"Well, they say 'man is fire and woman tow:' but this beats all.
Ha! ha!"

"Oh! do not jest. I did not laugh at you. Jacintha, it is no
laughing matter; I revere her as mortals revere the saints; I love
her so that were I ever to lose all hope of her I would not live a
day. And now that you have told me she is poor and in sorrow, and I
think of her walking so calm and gentle--always in black, Jacintha,--
and her low courtesy to me whenever we met, and her sweet smile to
me though her heart must be sad, oh! my heart yearns for her. What
can I do for her? How shall I surround her with myself unseen--make
her feel that a man's love waits upon her feet every step she takes--
that a man's love floats in the air round that lovely head?" Then
descending to earth for a moment, "but I say, you promise not to
betray me; come, secret for secret."

"I will not tell a soul; on the honor of a woman," said Jacintha.

The form of protestation was quite new to Edouard, and not exactly
the one his study of the ancient writers would have led him to
select. But the tone was convincing: he trusted her. They parted
sworn allies; and, at the very moment of parting, Jacintha, who had
cast many a furtive glance at the dead game, told Edouard demurely,
Mademoiselle Rose was very fond of roast partridge. On this he made
her take the whole bag; and went home on wings. Jacintha's
revelation roused all that was noble and forgiving in him. His
understanding and his heart expanded from that hour, and his fancy
spread its pinions to the sun of love. Ah! generous Youth, let who
will betray thee; let who will sneer at thee; let me, though young
no longer, smile on thee and joy in thee! She he loved was sad, was
poor, was menaced by many ills; then she needed a champion. He
would be her unseen friend, her guardian angel. A hundred wild
schemes whirled in his beating heart and brain. He could not go in-
doors, indeed, no room could contain him: he made for a green lane
he knew at the back of the village, and there he walked up and down
for hours. The sun set, and the night came, and the stars
glittered; but still he walked alone, inspired, exalted, full of
generous and loving schemes: of sweet and tender fancies: a heart on
fire; and youth the fuel, and the flame vestal.





White Lies by Charles Reade
Category:
English Literature
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