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Monique was delighted with what she considered a most fortunate meeting, and was so pressing that her son should carry their baskets home for them, that the young women found it impossible to resist her solicitations. “You look melancholy this morning, my fair Rosalie,” said the old woman: “has any thing afflicted
- My mother was taken very ill last night,” said the pious daughter.
Monique offered her services to nurse the sick woman; but Rosalie assured her neighbour that she could do all that was necessary for her, having obtained the medicines proper
for her disease from the Curé, and, in consequence, standing in no need of further advice.
At the gate of the garden, Rosalie took her basket from Victor, and at the same time wishing him and his mother a good day, entered the garden, followed by Annette.
Thus Monique succeeded in introducing her son to the fair daughters of her neighbour; neither did she fail to augur well from the indisposition of the mother, the news of which she had heard with considerable pleasure.
The illness of Madame de Foix was of more serious consequence than her daughters had supposed. The disease partook of the nature of the palsy, and confined the old lady to her bed, which was in a recess at one end of the apartment in which the family always sat and took their meals.
Madame de Foix was still in her bed, and had not yet experienced any considerable melioration of the symptoms of her disease, when the period of the village féte arrived, which happens early in the month of July. It was Sunday afternoon, and all the neighbourhood assembled at Tostes were bent on pleasure. The daughters of Madame de Foix alone expected to remain at home all the evening; and they were engaged in their garden in gathering rosemary and other herbs with which they were about to make a drink for their mother, when Monique and her son Victor entered the garden, the young man bringing with him two beautiful bouquets as a present for his fair neighbours. “I am come, my young friends,” said Monique, “ to accompany you to the Guinguette: our lads and lasses have already begun the dance, and the grove resounds with the cheerful notes of the violin.”
“Ah, Neighbour Monique,” said Rosalie, smiling, are you there again? and are you employed, as usual, in tempting your friend's daughters to disobedience? What kind of opinion must you have formed of us, to suppose that we should be so easily induced to leave our sick parent in order to join a dance? And on the Sunday, too, the holy day which you well know we have been taught to respect in an especial manner!”
“ Beautiful Rosalie,” said the young soldier, “ you are always cruel, always hard-hearted.
“Hard-hearted!” said Rosalie, smiling, "wherein do I shew my want of feeling, neighbour? Surely not by staying at home with my sick parent, rather than by indulging myself in the gaieties of the Guinguette.”
“ You, then, confess,” replied Victor, “ that you put a constraint upon yourself by staying at home. Well, then, it will, at least, be some comfort to me to have this to reflect upon, that your feelings would have led you to go with us to the Guinguette, but that your duty compels you to remain at home.”
· You are very ready, ” returned Rosalie, “to interpret my words in a way in which they were not intended. I have no desire to go this evening to the Guinguette. Our good neighbour Monique knows our reasons for staying away; and though our mother is not at present in a condition to take notice of what we do, I should be sorry to do that which she always disapproved because it has pleased God to put it out of her power now to direct our actions as she was formerly accustomed to do.”
While Rosalie was engaged in discourse with Victor in the manner I have described, Monique was making the most of her time with Annette; and it is with grief that I feel myself constrained to confess that she had not that difficulty with the younger sister which her son found with the elder. Annette had long secretly sighed for the pleasures of the Guinguette; and she now found herself so vehemently inclined to hearken to the solicitations of Monique, that; when her sister called upon her to return to the house, observing that their mother might think their absence long, she replied, that
she thought she should like for a short interval to take a view of the dancers, and would just accompany her neighbour to the Guinguette.
• What!” said Rosalie, with unaffected amazement, " and leave
mother?” “I do not leave her alone, Rosalie,” replied Annette: “and you surely will not be so ill-natured as to grieve her by informing her of my absence?”
"I will make you no promise, Annette,” said Rosalie. “ If she asks me, I will assuredly tell her. I will hold out no encouragement to your disobedience.”
• Disobedience!” replied Annette, “ that is a very hard word.”
“ Hard, or not hard,” said Rosalie, “it is not misused on this occasion." The contest between the sisters now became
serious, though it was supported with temper on the part of Rosalie. Annette, however, who knew herself to be wrong, became more and more determined, and, being encouraged by Monique, walked out of the garden-gate; while Rosalie followed her a few steps, wringing her hands, and imploring her not to go with a degree of energy which astonished Victor, who could not comprehend the reason of her agitation. He therefore endeavoured to persuade the elder sister to follow the younger, hoping in this manner to seduce her from that paternal roof under which she had hitherto found a sweet and peaceful retreat from the world.
“ If you fear any imprudence in your sister," said Victor, “ fair Rosalie, what can you do better than follow her, and continue your sisterly care over her?”
“No, no,” replied Rosalie, “I will take no part in her fault: and yet,” she added, while bursting into tears, “I would give all I have in the world to bring her back to her duty."
By this time, Monique and Annette were nearly out of sight, and Victor was still reasoning with Rosalie, promising her that no harm should happen to her sister, when Florimond, who was passing by in his way to the village, came up to them, and, observing the distress of Rosalie, enquired, with considerable earnestness, the cause of those tears which flowed so abundantly down her cheeks.
As Victor immediately withdrew on perceiving the approach of Florimond, Rosalie was left at liberty to represent to the latter the cause of her affliction. And this she did in a manner so artless and impressive, that Florimond, entreating her to be comforted, assured her that he would take care that her sister should return in safety to her home: and having made this promise, he proceeded to the place of public resort, meditating, as he went, on the filial piety of Rosalie, which made her beauty to shine with a thousand new charms in his eyes.
In the mean time, Rosalie returned, somewhat comforted, to the side of her mother's bed. But as she found that dear parent under much oppression from her illness, she avoided troubling her with an account of the disobedience of her daughter, making only such slight excuse for her absence as might seem sufficient to account for it in the eyes of one whose faculties were then considerably impaired by indisposition.
And thus the hours of the afternoon wore away. Annette did not return, and twilight approached. The anxious Rosalie, at length, left the little maid with her mother, who had fallen into a heavy slumber, and, retiring to her own chamber, watched for the return of her sister from a window, which, projecting from the thatch, fronted the narrow path leading to the village. She had taken the precaution to lock the door of the house, and had brought the key up stairs in her hand, intending to throw it down to her sister when she came under the window.
The evening was remarkably calm and still, and the silver crescent had just risen over a neighbouring grove, accompanied by that beautiful planet sometimes called the evening-star, when Rosalie, approaching her window, explored, with anxious eye, the narrow path which led from the cottage to the village on one hand, and to the farm of Florimond, on a rising ground, on the other. The moon, with her brilliant companion, just afforded light sufficient for the anxious sister to distinguish any figure which might be passing along such parts of the path as chanced not to be shaded by tree or bush. After a while, she thought she distinguished a figure in the remoter part of this path, but presently it disappeared. She thought also she heard steps, but all
again was silent till the nightingale began to sing in a neighbouring thicket. Rosalie still stood at the window. The nightingale had ceased, or perhaps removed to a more distant spot. Rosalie at length plainly distinguished several figures. She drew back from the window as the figures approached. She presently heard several voices; the voices became more distinct, and she soon distinguished a female whom she knew to be her sister, and with her was a man. They came near to the cottage, and stood talking together for several seconds in a low and smothered tone. Rosalie could not hear what they said, but she grew impatient. It was Victor, a young man, and almost a stranger, with whom Annette was conversing alone, and at this hour.
Rosalie was hesitating whether she should call to them from the window, when a third voice, which she instantly knew to be Florimond's, was heard from a small distance; and the young farmer coming forwards, addressed Annette in a voice which by no means partook of the undertones which had made Rosalie so uneasy, and asked if he should have the pleasure of knocking for her at her mother's door?
“And cannot I do as much for my neighbour's daughter,” said Victor, angrily, “without your interference ? What have you to do to raise such a disturbance, Monsieur Florimond ?”
Victor would probably have proceeded to use more harsh language, and such as might not have been easily passed over by the young man with whom he was conversing, when Rosalie called to her sister from the window, and, throwing the key to her, begged her not to speak loud, for their mother was asleep.
On hearing the voice of Rosalie, Florimond sprung over the low paling in front of the cottage, and, advancing close beneath the window, addressed her in a low voice, saying, “ Fair Rosalie, your absence has been deeply regretted by those who saw your sister this evening at the Guinguette.”
" I fear, then,” said Rosalie, " that there were few present who really respected me."
“And why so?” returned Florimond.
“Because,” replied the other, “ it could not have been a matter of regret to any friend to find that I rather