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here like a silly old woman, and la mère Borot, that old imbecile, who has at least ten more years than I have, ails nothing? Ma foi, I cannot understand how this is."
Clémence kissed the fretful face, and then seated herself at the bedside.
"Thou canst stay a few minutes, Clémence," Rosalie nodded, "but not longer. I have much to say to thee."
Madame de Vos looked angry.
"Rosalie, thou art so selfish. Thou hast Louis and the children ; leave Clémence to me: I have no one."
She closed her eyes with a weary sigh. Rosalie made an expressive grimace at her sister, and crept out of the room. Clémence sighed too. At home she and her father lived in such unbroken harmony, this discord seemed doubly jarring. This was only her second visit to Bruges, and when Rosalie had paid short visits to the "Ours d'Or" she had been gay and bright. But her grandmother soon claimed Clémence's attention. Madame de Vos began with her own sufferings, and then went on to the neglect, the vanity, the bad temper of Rosalie.
"And, Clémence, she is also jealous. She will not let thee stay long with me, lest thou shouldst love me best. It is the same with the little ones they love the bonne-maman, poor darlings; and so they may not run to the end of the gallery-and I who have done everything for her."
As soon as she could get the words in, Clémence interrupted,"Does la tante come to see thee the Sœur Marie?"
"No; no one remembers me now. I am helpless, and suffering, and forgotten. I had plenty of friends, as thou knowest, when I had a house of my own, and did not spend my money on ungrateful children. The Sœur Marie, why should she come? Rosalie told me that Louis disliked to see her, and so I told my poor Marie to keep away; and, Clémence, it is true that Marie is not an amusing companion."
It was such a new pleasure for the invalid to get so sweet and cheerful a listener, that she would scarcely let Clémence go when she was summoned to supper.
Sounds of angry voices came from the eating-room. Clémence opened the door, and met Louis just coming out. He had his hat in his hand, and his face was flushed.
"Bon soir, my sister," he said. "You and Rosalie may have all the talk to yourselves."
He passed out, and Clémence looked at her sister. Rosalie's face was heated and angry. She sat in sullen silence, and gave Clémence her supper without any remark.
"I find bonne-maman better than I thought to find her. attack does not seem to affect her speech."
Rosalie shrugged her shoulders.
"Thou mayest well say that." She tossed her befrizzed head. "Very surely she has been telling thee fine tales about me and my doings. Ah! I know," she disregarded Clémence's attempt to stop her "it is always I who do all the wrong. Others may do as they choose; but they are always right with bonne-maman."
Clémence's heart ached: it seemed as if there was no union in this household. A tender, motherly longing to comfort her young sister urged her to speak.
"But how is it, Rosalie?-thou wast always the one she loved best. When people are ill, dearest, they get fractious, and find fault with those they prefer."
Rosalie shook her head.
"It is useless to talk about it, Clémence.
It did not begin with is illness: the bonne-maman is unjust and selfish, and I do not wish to talk about her."
It seemed to Clémence that it was not easy to talk about anything to Rosalie. She would not speak either of her husband or her children. The only subject in which she seemed interested was a new toilettea dress and bonnet she had been choosing for the fête to be held next week in the Jardin Botanique.
"Thou wilt like it, Clémence.
There will be music, and the officers
will all be there." It seemed to Clémence that Rosalie blushed. "But I shall not go. The bonne-maman is quite helpless, though she can talk, and I do not think she ought to be left till she is better."
"As thou wilt."
Rosalie's sullen look came back, and it seemed
best to leave her to herself.
THE fête in the Jardin Botanique begins at two o'clock. There is just time to hurry over the children's meal, and for Rosalie to make a fresh toilette when she comes in from mass.
She is in a flutter of anxiety when she comes downstairs. Clémance has not seen her sister look so bright since her arrival at Bruges.
"Come, Loulou, make haste." Rosalie speaks cheerfully, without the fretful ring to which Clémence has grown accustomed. "We shall be late, if thou dost not hasten." She goes to the window. It seems a matter of course that Clémence should sit between the two children, giving them their dinner.
"Oh! what lovely weather!"—there is all the glee of a child in Rosalie's voice-" and I was so afraid it would be cold."
The door opened, and her husband came in. struck by her improved looks.
He was evidently
"Are we not gay in our new bonnet?" he said, to Clémence. "I am just in time, Rosalie, to escort thee to the Jardin Botanique." "Thanks"-Clémence started at the changed voice, and she saw the smile fade away-" I have no wish to be troublesome, Louis. I am sure thou couldst find a more amusing companion; and I have to take care of Loulou and little Clémence."
"As it pleases thee; but I suppose we may as well start together.” Louis spoke carelessly; but it seemed to Clémence that he was wounded. He stood whistling, with his hands in his pockets, while the children were got ready.
Clémence sighed when they had all gone away. It had been sad enough to see the disunion between Rosalie and her grandmother; but this was worse. Was Louis really an unkind husband, and was this the secret of the change in Rosalie? But her grandmother's bell rang loudly, and she was soon by the invalid's bed, listening to the reiteration of all her sufferings, the wealth and importance of the family Van Rooms, and the devotion evinced by Madame de Vos to her grandchildren.
"I am glad the day is so fine," said Clémence.
Madame de Vos grunted and turned away with a discontented look on her pink face.
"Thou art glad for Rosalie to play peacock. Ah, Clémence, if thou wert married to Louis, would it be necessary for thee to chatter to all the officers in the town?"
Clémence gave a little start, but she began to talk of something else; she would not believe evil of Rosalie.
Louis came home long before Rosalie did; he brought Loulou with him. Clémence found the little boy in his nursery, crying.
"Papa has sent me away from him," he sobbed; "and maman has called me a naughty boy, and I am not naughty, my aunt."
Clémence always stole some minutes every day from the invalid, to play with the children; but to-day she stayed in the nursery longer than usual. It was a large room at the top of the house: no fear that noise could reach mother or grandmother. Clémence romped and laughed till she was fairly tired; she loved Loulou dearly, he was so caressing and affectionate.
"Thou art a good fairy, my aunt," the child said, as he came downstairs with her to the door of his great-grandmother's room. "It is always bright in the house now thou art here; I am never triste.”
He hugged her so tightly that Clémence's face was hidden in his curls. At the moment Rosalie appeared at the other end of the passage ;. she looked flushed and angry, and she passed on into her room without a word.
When Clémence went downstairs to supper, she found Louis alone. "I am not going out this evening," he said. We need not wait. supper for Rosalie; she has gone to bed."
"What is it?" Clémence asked herself. "There is a constrained atmosphere in this house. I dare not ask a question, lest I should do mischief or make a quarrel. Are Louis and Rosalie really miserable, or is it only before others that they speak so coldly?"
Marriage was different from what Clémence had pictured it; and yet when she thought of her father and mother, she felt that there must be something amiss between Louis and Rosalie.
Next morning, at breakfast-time, Loulou sat close to his mother. "The aunt Clémence is a good fairy," he said; "if I am crying, she makes me happy again: she is like sunshine; the room is dark and sad when she goes out of it. Maman, get some sunshine from our aunt
Rosalie was pouring out coffee; her hand shook, and the table-cloth was spoiled.
She turned a crimson face on Loulou, and boxed his ears.
"Go upstairs, naughty chatterbox: see the mischief thou hast done." Louis Scherer looked up from his newspaper. Generally he ate his breakfast without making a remark of any kind; but Loulou was his special darling.
"Thou art unjust," he said to his wife: "it was not Loulou who upset the coffee."
Rosalie's eyes flashed.
"No; of course it is always I who am to blame-I who am wrong with every one,"
She got up, and left the breakfast-table. Louis muttered an exclamation, and then he smiled at Clémence.
"Will you pour out coffee, or shall I?" he said.
Clémence felt miserable.
"Go after her," she said in a low voice.
Louis raised his eyebrows.
"You are not used to Rosalie: it is necessary to her to be jealous. It is you and the children to-day; it will be some one else to-morrow. It is better to leave her alone."
"And yet," Clémence thought as she sat afterwards in her grandmother's room, "what can this leaving alone come to? Must not each of these little jars weaken love? And how they loved each other once; ah, if I could only see them happy again!"
She heard a rustling at the door; opening it gently, she saw little Louis sobbing, curled up on the passage floor.
Clémence held out her hand, but the child shrank away.
"What is it, darling?" She went after him, and caught him up in her arms.
"It is thy fault, not mine now." A look of infinite relief came into the little troubled face. Maman says I am naughty to love thee so much; and now it is thou who lovest me, Aunt Clémence ;" but he twined his arms round her neck, "I do love thee best in the world."
Aunt Clémence was glad to hide her eyes among his golden curls. She was shocked, frightened even, that Rosalie could thus teach her child evil; and yet, what could she do? If she spoke to Rosalie, it might perhaps bring open discord between them.
She stood hugging the child in her arms, and Rosalie's door opened. Clémence felt guilty before her sister's frowning face, only for an instant, then she set little Loulou down.
"Run upstairs," she said quietly; "go and play with the little one."
The boy looked from one face to the other, and hesitated.
Go, Loulou," said Clémence ; and he bounded upstairs. "Why dost thou send him away, Clémence? When I asked thee to come and nurse our grandmother, it was not that thou mightest rule my children and my house."
Clémence opened her bed-room door.
"Come in here," she said. Rosalie had spoken in a high, constrained voice, and one of the servants was crossing the end of the gallery. Rosalie followed her sister, but she went on speaking.
"I care not who hears me: I have done no wrong this time. No mother can submit quietly to be robbed of the love of her children."
"Listen to me." Clémence spoke firmly. "Rosalie, thou art not happy, and thy vexation makes thee unjust to all. Children always like new faces; if I were here always, Loulou would not care for me; and it is the same with bonne-maman. Why, Rosalie," Clémence's eyes were full of tender sweetness-she smiled into the fair sulky face, "thou knowest thou wast always the pet and the favourite:"no one could ever help loving thee. Jealousy should never trouble thee."
Rosalie's eyes flamed with anger.
"Thou art as unjust as Louis is. I am not jealous, I am not vain; but surely when I find every one preferred, when husband and children too desert me, it is time that I should feel it. I am not insensible, Clémence. Cold, correct people do not know how warm hearts suffer." Tears sprang to her angry eyes, but she wiped them away. "It is useless for one to try to teach another."
Clémence put her arm round her sister, and kissed the flushed unwilling cheek.
"I did not mean that thou hadst not sorrows, dearest; only thou must not brood over them. Vexations are like eggs if we leave them to grow cold, they will perish out of existence; but if we nurse them, they will gain strength and life. Why not go and romp with the children now?—it would do thee good."
Rosalie drew herself proudly away.
Single women talk of what they cannot understand," she said
bitterly. "I suppose I shall get a lecture next on behaviour towards