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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Grandissimes - Chapter 22. Wars Within The Breast
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The Grandissimes - Chapter 22. Wars Within The Breast Post by :bjbauer Category :Long Stories Author :George Washington Cable Date :May 2012 Read :1728

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The Grandissimes - Chapter 22. Wars Within The Breast

CHAPTER XXII. WARS WITHIN THE BREAST

The next morning came in frigid and gray. The unseasonable numerals which the meteorologist recorded in his tables might have provoked a superstitious lover of better weather to suppose that Monsieur Danny, the head imp of discord, had been among the aerial currents. The passionate southern sky, looking down and seeing some six thousand to seventy-five hundred of her favorite children disconcerted and shivering, tried in vain, for two hours, to smile upon them with a little frozen sunshine, and finally burst into tears.

In thus giving way to despondency, it is sad to say, the sky was closely imitating the simultaneous behavior of Aurora Nancanou. Never was pretty lady in cheerier mood than that in which she had come home from Honore's counting-room. Hard would it be to find the material with which to build again the castles-in-air that she founded upon two or three little discoveries there made. Should she tell them to Clotilde? Ah! and for what? No, Clotilde was a dear daughter--ha! few women were capable of having such a daughter as Clotilde; but there were things about which she was entirely too scrupulous. So, when she came in from that errand profoundly satisfied that she would in future hear no more about the rent than she might choose to hear, she had been too shrewd to expose herself to her daughter's catechising. She would save her little revelations for disclosure when they might be used to advantage. As she threw her bonnet upon the bed, she exclaimed, in a tone of gentle and wearied reproach:

"Why did you not remind me that M. Honore Grandissime, that precious somebody-great, has the honor to rejoice in a quadroon half-brother of the same illustrious name? Why did you not remind me, eh?"

"Ah! and you know it as well as A, B, C," playfully retorted Clotilde.

"Well, guess which one is our landlord?"

"Which one?"

"_Ma foi_! how do _I know? I had to wait a shameful long time to see _Monsieur le prince_,--just because I am a De Grapion, I know. When at last I saw him, he says, 'Madame, this is the other Honore Grandissime.' There, you see we are the victims of a conspiracy; if I go to the other, he will send me back to the first. But, Clotilde, my darling," cried the beautiful speaker, beamingly, "dismiss all fear and care; we shall have no more trouble about it."

"And how, indeed, do you know that?"

"Something tells it to me in my ear. I feel it! Trust in Providence, my child. Look at me, how happy I am; but you--you never trust in Providence. That is why we have so much trouble,--because you don't trust in Providence. Oh! I am so hungry, let us have dinner."

"What sort of a person is M. Grandissime in his appearance?" asked Clotilde, over their feeble excuse for a dinner.

"What sort? Do you imagine I had nothing better to do than notice whether a Grandissime is good-looking or not? For all I know to the contrary, he is--some more rice, please, my dear."

But this light-heartedness did not last long. It was based on an unutterable secret, all her own, about which she still had trembling doubts; this, too, notwithstanding her consultation of the dark oracles. She was going to stop that. In the long run, these charms and spells themselves bring bad luck. Moreover, the practice, indulged in to excess, was wicked, and she had promised Clotilde,--that droll little saint,--to resort to them no more. Hereafter, she should do nothing of the sort, except, to be sure, to take such ordinary precautions against misfortune as casting upon the floor a little of whatever she might be eating or drinking to propitiate M. Assonquer. She would have liked, could she have done it without fear of detection, to pour upon the front door-sill an oblation of beer sweetened with black molasses to Papa Lebat (who keeps the invisible keys of all the doors that admit suitors), but she dared not; and then, the hound would surely have licked it up. Ah me! was she forgetting that she was a widow?

She was in poor plight to meet the all but icy gray morning; and, to make her misery still greater, she found, on dressing, that an accident had overtaken her, which she knew to be a trustworthy sign of love grown cold. She had lost--alas! how can we communicate it in English!--a small piece of lute-string ribbon, about _so long_, which she used for--not a necktie exactly, but--

And she hunted and hunted, and couldn't bear to give up the search, and sat down to breakfast and ate nothing, and rose up and searched again (not that she cared for the omen), and struck the hound with the broom, and broke the broom, and hunted again, and looked out the front window, and saw the rain beginning to fall, and dropped into a chair--crying, "Oh! Clotilde, my child, my child! the rent collector will be here Saturday and turn us into the street!" and so fell a-weeping.

A little tear-letting lightened her unrevealable burden, and she rose, rejoicing that Clotilde had happened to be out of eye-and-ear-shot. The scanty fire in the fireplace was ample to warm the room; the fire within her made it too insufferably hot! Rain or no rain, she parted the window-curtains and lifted the sash. What a mark for Love's arrow she was, as, at the window, she stretched her two arms upward! And, "right so," who should chance to come cantering by, the big drops of rain pattering after him, but the knightliest man in that old town, and the fittest to perfect the fine old-fashioned poetry of the scene!

"Clotilde," said Aurora, turning from her mirror, whither she had hastened to see if her face showed signs of tears (Clotilde was entering the room), "we shall never be turned out of this house by Honore Grandissime!"

"Why?" asked Clotilde, stopping short in the floor, forgetting Aurora's trust in Providence, and expecting to hear that M. Grandissime had been found dead in his bed.

"Because I saw him just now; he rode by on horseback. A man with that noble face could never _do such a thing_!"

The astonished Clotilde looked at her mother searchingly. This sort of speech about a Grandissime? But Aurora was the picture of innocence.

Clotilde uttered a derisive laugh.

"_Impertinente_!" exclaimed the other, laboring not to join in it.

"Ah-h-h!" cried Clotilde, in the same mood, "and what face had he when he wrote that letter?"

"What face?"

"Yes, what face?"

"I do not know what face you mean," said Aurora.

"What face," repeated Clotilde, "had Monsieur Honore de Grandissime on the day that he wrote--"

"Ah, f-fah!" cried Aurora, and turned away, "you don't know what you are talking about! You make me wish sometimes that I were dead!"

Clotilde had gone and shut down the sash, as it began to rain hard and blow. As she was turning away, her eye was attracted by an object at a distance.

"What is it?" asked Aurora, from a seat before the fire.

"Nothing," said Clotilde, weary of the sensational,--"a man in the rain."

It was the apothecary of the rue Royale, turning from that street toward the rue Bourbon, and bowing his head against the swirling norther.

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