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قراءة كتاب White Lies

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‏اللغة: English
White Lies

White Lies

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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for a friend, the last in the world on whom the family reckoned for any solid aid. Dr. Aubertin had lived in the chateau twenty years. He was a man of science, and did not care a button for money; so he had retired from the practice of medicine, and pursued his researches at ease under the baron's roof. They all loved him, and laughed at his occasional reveries, in the days of prosperity; and now, in one great crisis, the protege became the protector, to their astonishment and his own. But it was an age of ups and downs. This amiable theorist was one of the oldest verbal republicans in Europe. And why not? In theory a republic is the perfect form of government: it is merely in practice that it is impossible; it is only upon going off paper into reality, and trying actually to self-govern limited nations, after heating them white hot with the fire of politics and the bellows of bombast—that the thing resolves itself into bloodshed silvered with moonshine.

Dr. Aubertin had for years talked and written speculative republicanism. So they applied to him whether the baroness shared her husband's opinions, and he boldly assured them she did not; he added, "She is a pupil of mine." On this audacious statement they contented themselves with laying a heavy fine on the lands of Beaurepaire.

Assignats were abundant, but good mercantile paper, a notorious coward, had made itself wings and fled, and specie was creeping into strong boxes like a startled rabbit into its hole. The fine was paid; but Beaurepaire had to be heavily mortgaged, and the loan bore a high rate of interest. This, with the baron's previous mortgages, swamped the estate.

The baroness sold her carriage and horses, and she and her daughters prepared to deny themselves all but the bare necessaries of life, and pay off their debts if possible. On this their dependants fell away from them; their fair-weather friends came no longer near them; and many a flush of indignation crossed their brows, and many an aching pang their hearts, as adversity revealed the baseness and inconstancy of common people high or low.

When the other servants had retired with their wages, one Jacintha remained behind, and begged permission to speak to the baroness.

"What would you with me, my child?" asked that lady, with an accent in which a shade of surprise mingled with great politeness.

"Forgive me, madame," began Jacintha, with a formal courtesy; "but how can I leave you, and Mademoiselle Josephine, and Mademoiselle Rose? I was born at Beaurepaire; my mother died in the chateau: my father died in the village; but he had meat every day from the baron's own table, and fuel from the baron's wood, and died blessing the house of Beaurepaire. I CANNOT go. The others are gone because prosperity is here no longer. Let it be so; I will stay till the sun shines again upon the chateau, and then you shall send me away if you are bent on it; but not now, my ladies—oh, not now! Oh! oh! oh!" And the warm-hearted girl burst out sobbing ungracefully.

"My child," said the baroness, "these sentiments touch me, and honor you. But retire, if you please, while I consult my daughters."

Jacintha cut her sobs dead short, and retreated with a formal reverence.

The consultation consisted of the baroness opening her arms, and both her daughters embracing her at once. Proud as they were, they wept with joy at having made one friend amongst all their servants. Jacintha stayed.

As months rolled on, Rose de Beaurepaire recovered her natural gayety in spite of bereavement and poverty; so strong are youth, and health, and temperament. But her elder sister had a grief all her own: Captain Dujardin, a gallant young officer, well-born, and his own master, had courted her with her parents' consent; and, even when the baron began to look coldly on the soldier of the Republic, young Dujardin, though too proud to encounter the baron's irony and looks of scorn, would not yield love to pique. He came no more to the chateau, but he would wait hours and hours on the path to the little oratory in the park, on the bare chance of a passing word or even a kind look from Josephine. So much devotion gradually won a heart which in happier times she had been half encouraged to give him; and, when he left her on a military service of uncommon danger, the woman's reserve melted, and, in that moment of mutual grief and passion, she vowed she loved him better than all the world.

Letters from the camp breathing a devotion little short of worship fed her attachment; and more than one public mention of his name and services made her proud as well as fond of the fiery young soldier.

Still she did not open her heart to her parents. The baron, alive at that time, was exasperated against the Republic, and all who served it; and, as for the baroness, she was of the old school: a passionate love in a lady's heart before marriage was contrary to her notions of etiquette. Josephine loved Rose very tenderly; but shrank with modest delicacy from making her a confidante of feelings, the bare relation of which leaves the female hearer a child no longer.

So she hid her heart, and delicious first love nestled deep in her nature, and thrilled in every secret vein and fibre.

They had parted two years, and he had joined the army of the Pyrenees about one month, when suddenly all correspondence ceased on his part.

Restless anxiety rose into terror as this silence continued; and starting and trembling at every sound, and edging to the window at every footstep, Josephine expected hourly the tidings of her lover's death.

Months rolled on in silence.

Then a new torture came. He must not be dead but unfaithful. At this all the pride of her race was fired in her.

The struggle between love and ire was almost too much for nature: violently gay and moody by turns she alarmed both her mother and the good Dr. Aubertin. The latter was not, I think, quite without suspicion of the truth; however, he simply prescribed change of air and place; she must go to Frejus, a watering-place distant about five leagues. Mademoiselle de Beaurepaire yielded a languid assent. To her all places were alike.

But when they returned from Frejus a change had taken place. Rose had extracted her sister's secret, and was a changed girl. Pity, and the keen sense of Josephine's wrong, had raised her sisterly love to a passion. The great-hearted girl hovered about her lovely, suffering sister like an angel, and paid her the tender attentions 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

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