Katharine Sarah Macquoid.

Lost Rose. And other stories (Volume 1) online

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madame her grandmother went back to live
in her own house at Louvain.

** Dame ! what a happiness ! what a re-
lief!" Elodie had said. ** Mam'selle Cle-
mence will now take the place that should
always have been hers ; and what an angel
is Mam'selle Clemence ! "

It may be that the principle which urged
the cook at the Ours d'Or so constantly
to brighten the shining brass pots and pans
on her kitchen-wall was thorough, and led
lier also to fear lest her tongue too might
grow dull and rusty unless she sometimes
sharpened it against her master, Auguste de
Tos, and even against the ** angel, '* Mam'selle

There is a slight sound, and Elodie looks up.

A black-cloaked figure stands at the parlour
door on the opposite side of the long, paved,
arched-over entrance to the courtyard of the
Ours d'Or.

CLjkMENCE. 211

Elodie comes forward to the door of her
kitchen, which is on the oj^posite side of the
paved entrance way.

'* Mam'selle Clemence," she says, shrilly.

**Yes, yes, Elodie, I am coming." The
voice is so sweet that one is impatient to see
the face which goes with it, but Clemence
has turned back to listen to her father's last

Auguste de Vos is a stout, florid Belgian,
but he has dark hair and an intelligent face.
He looks younger, and happier too, since he
has been left to live alone with Clemence ;
he has the same blessed freedom from domestic
worry that he enjoyed while his wife lived.
Clemence has a dexterous way of keeping
the bright side of life turned towards her
father ; even Elodie's querulousness rarely
reaches him. Auguste de Vos has never
been a demonstrative man ; but ever since the
evening when Eosalie's marriage was decided,
there has been a graver tenderness in his
manner to his eldest daughter, a something
not to be painted in words, but which often
kindles in Clemence a strange emotion which
brings a sob and a smile together.


** Well, my child," Auguste de Vos is now
saying, ''' if thou sayest it is needful, I yield ;
but remember always that Eosalie has three
maids and only two children : it is to me
inconceivable that after all her grandmother
has done for her, and for Louis Scherer too,
they should not contrive to nurse my mother
in her sickness without thy help."

Clemence smiles ; she has a sweet, pensive
face, but her dark eyes light up at this smile,
and sparkle brightly through the long black

*'Poor Eosalie! Thou art severe, my
father ; but it is almost the first request she
has made me since her marriage, and it seems
a beginning of— of - -" Here Clemence falters
and blushes, and then looks frankly into her
father's, eyes — he is father and mother both
to her now — '' Only thou knowest well Eosalie
has never been the same to me since she
went away."

Her father's eyes are full of wistful tender-

*^ The fault is none of thy making, Cle-

'*I must now go to Elodie." She nods and


leaves him. '^ Poor Eosalie," she says to
herself, '' she is not yet forgiven."

*' Hein," Elodie puts her head on one
side Hke a pugnacious sparrow as Clemence
steps into the kitchen, ''fine doings, indeed;
and it is true, then, Mam'selle, that you go
to-morrow to Bruges to nurse the bonne
maman, who never was once good to

''Hush, Elodie, you may not so speak of
my grandmother." Clemence's grey eyes look
almost severe.

Elodie turns to the table behind her.

"I speak as I find, Mam'selle. Duty is
duty everywhere ; and to me, Mam'selle,
Monsieur is of more value than Madame his
mother, and he will be sad without you ; and
she— well she would have perhaps a little
neglect, what will you ? Madame Scherer
is young, and she loves her ease ; but she
will be obliged to take care of Madame de
Vos if you do not go, Mam'selle Clemence."

"Nevertheless, I am going." Clemence
speaks decidedly, and her bright smile quiets
Elodie. "Now I want some broth, a cold
chicken, if you can spare me one, and somp-


eggs. I am going to see your friend, the
wife of the sacristan of St. Michel."

Elodie grunts, but she produces the food
demanded, and carefully stows it away in a

*' It is all very well," she says. *' I don't
grudge the food and drink which Mam'selle
gives, but I ask myself, when Mam'selle
Clemence marries and goes away — and she
will marry some day, I suppose — ah ! but
the man will be lucky ! — what will then
happen to the wife of the sacristan and all
the other sick folk of our parish ? She has
used them to these dainties ; ma foi ! it will
be harder to give them up altogether than to
go without them now."

Louis Scherer left the army on his mar-
riage. He had an appointment at Bruges ;
and Eosalie found housekeeping so little to her
liking that after the first few months she
persuaded her husband to let Madame de
Vos live with them.

For a time this arrangement had been,
successful. Madame doated on the young
couple, managed the servants, and contributed.


liberally to household expenses ; but when:
babies came — two with only a year's interval
between — strife arose about their manage-
ment, and the discord in his household
disgusted Louis Scherer.

It was at his instigation that Eosalie had
now written to ask Clemence to come and
help nurse Madame de Vos in her sickness.



T OUIS met his wife's sister at the railway
station. Clemence had not seen him for
more than a year. She thought he looked aged ;
his fair, handsome face was full of worry.

They had met since the marriage, and all
remembrance of the old relations had been
effaced by the new, save it may be a certain
self-complacency in the man in the society
of the woman who had once so dearly loved
him, and in the woman a certain blindness to
faults which were* visible to all other eyes ;
but then Clemence de Vos was indulgent to
everyone — to everyone but herself.

She asked after all the family, and then,

''"• How is the Soeur Marie ? " she asked.
" Does Eosalie see her often ? "

'' Ma foi ! " — Louis twirled his pretty, soft
moustaches : he was really handsome, and
he looked very well aware of the fact —
^' Eosalie may, and she may not, see your
aunt, the Soeur Marie ; but she does not tell
me. I have no special liking for religieuses.


especially when they are no longer young or
pretty. But here we are, Clemence, and there
is your little god-daughter peeping out of

They had come up a by- street, which
ended on the quay of one of the canals, bor-
dered on this side by a closely-planted line
of poplar-trees. The newly opened leaves
trembled in the warm sunshine reflected from
the red, high-gabled houses across the water —
houses which went straight down to the edge of
the canal, and seemed to bend forward so as to
get a view of their own full-length reflections
in the yellow water. Behind the houses rose
the graceful tourelles of the Hotel de Ville,
and beyond, rising high above all the rest,
was the beffroi. It was just three o'clock,
and suddenly the carillon sounded out from
the lofty tower, swelling, with sweet throbs,
through the air above them, as if the angels
were holding a musical festival in those melo-
dious, unearthly strains.

But Louis was too much used to the
carillon to notice it. '' There is your god-
daughter, Clemence," he said.

Clemence started from her rapt listening.


It had seemed to her she heard her mother's
voice up there among the angels.

Louis Scherer lived in a red stepped-gabled
house. There was a pointed window in the
gable, with an arched hood of grey stone ;
the window-mullions too were of stone.
Below were two similar windows, with a
carved spandril between the arches ; and at
one of these lower windows peeped out a
little smiling cherub-face — a miniature, Cle-
mence thought, of Eosalie.

Clemence kissed both hands to the little
maid, and then went in through the open
archway below the windows.

There was a patter of little feet, a chirrup
of slight treble voices, and then two laugh-
ing baby faces peeped from behind a green
half-closed door on the left of the paved

Clemence forgot where she was, forgot
even her grandmother's illness, and sat down
on the door-step, with the two blooming
darlings nestling in her arms.

The younger of the two, the little Clemence,
talked glibly in her soft, incoherent gibberish;
but little Louis played for a while at being


shy, alternately hiding his face in his aunt's
black cloak, or else looking up with round,
shining blue eyes, and his pink fat forefinger
between his pouting lips.

Louis had passed on into the house to
fetch his wife.

'' Tiens, tiens ! where art thou, Clemence."
Eosalie's voice sounded so shrill that Cle-
mence put the children off her lap, and
jumped up from her low seat.

The sisters kissed each other affectionately,
and then they exchanged looks.

^^Ma foi," Rosalie said to herself, *^ Cle-
mence grows younger-looking every time I
see her."

** Rosalie looks troubled," Clemence thought.
And she followed her sister upstairs, stifling a
wish that she would look more sweet and
simple. She was still a beautiful blonde ;
but the Rosalie of Clemence's youth had
been lovelier in her simplicity than the be-
frizzed, over-dressed lady, whose smile was
so forced and rare. In the short minute
that followed their greeting, Clemence had
seen the little Louis shrink away from his
mother, and cling to his father's knees.


Madame de Vos's bedroom was at the end
of the upstairs gallery. The walls were
white, and so were the bed hangings, with
their white-tufted fringe. The cushion in
the window- seat was covered in white dimity ;
the window itself was shrouded in white
curtains, fringed like the bed-hangings. All
this white seemed to bring out in yet stronger
relief the deeply-tinted pink face of Madame
de Vos. She stretched one hand out to
greet Clemence ; the other lay still on the
coverlet, powerless for evermore.

'^ Eh, bien, my child, thou art come at
last, then, to look at what is left of thy
grandmother. Ah ! but, Clemence, is it not
incredible that I, so active, and of so perfect
a constitution, should be lying here like a
silly old woman, and la mere Borot, that old
imbecile, who has at least ten more years
than I have, ails nothing. Ma foi, I cannot
understand how this is."

Clemence kissed the fretful face, and then
seated herself at the bedside.

" Thou canst stay a few minutes, Cle-
mence," Kosalie nodded, '^ but not longer.
I have much to say to thee."


Madame de Yos looked angiy.

'* Eosalie, thou art so selfish. Thou hast
Louis and the children ; leave Glemence to
me : I have no one."

She closed her eyes with a weary sigh.
Eosalie made an expressive grimace at her
sister, and crept out of her room. Glemence
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 w^hen Eosalie had
paid short visits to the Ours d'Or she had
been gay and bright. But her grandmother
soon claimed Clemence's attention. Madame
de Vos began with her own sufferings, and
then went on to the neglect, the vanity, the
bad temper of Eosalie.

**And, Glemence, 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 grandmother, poor
darlings, and so they may not run to the end
of the gallery, to my door — and I who have
done everything for Eosalie ! "

As soon as she could get the words in,
Glemence interrupt 3d,


** Does my aunt come to see thee, grand-
mother ? ''

^^ 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 Soeur
Marie, why should she come ? Eosalie told me
that Louis disliked to see her, and so I told
my poor Marie to keep away ; and, Clemence,
it is true that Marie is not an amusing com-

It was such a new pleasure for the invalid
to get so sweet and cheerful a listener that
she would scarcely let Clemence go when she
was summoned to supper.

Sounds of angry voices came from the
eating -room. Clemence 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 Clemence looked at her
sister. Eosalie's face was heated and angry.
She sat in sullen silence, and gave Clemence
her supper without any remark.


'* I find our gi-andmother better than I
thought to find her. The attack does not
seem to affect her speech."

Eosalie shrugged her shoulders.

" Thou may est 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
Clemence'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

Clemence'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 al-
ways 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, Clemence.
It did not begin with this illness : the grand-
mother is unjust and selfish, and I do not
wish to talk about her."

It seemed to Clemence that it was not easy


to talk about anything to Rosalie. She would
not speak either of her husband or her chil-
dren. The only subject in which she seemed
interested was a new toilette — a dress and
bonnet she had been choosing for the fete to
be held next week in the Jardin Botanique.

*' Thou wilt like it, Cleinence. There will
be music, and the ofl&cers will all be there."
Eosalie blushed.

'' But I shall not go," said Clemence.
^* Grandmother 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



r r H V\ fete in the Jarclin Botanique begins at
two o'clock. There is just time to hurry
over the children's meal, and for Eosalie to
make a fresh toilette when she comes in from

She is in a flutter of anxiety when she
comes downstairs. Clemence has not seen
her sister look so bright since her arrival at

'* Come, Loiilou, make haste." Piosalie
speaks cheerfully, without the fretful ring to
which Clemence has grown accustomed. ^* We
shall be late, if thou dost not hasten." She
goes to the window. It seems a matter of
course that Clemence should sit between the
two children giving them their dinner.

*' Oh ! what lovely weather ! " — there is
the glee of a child in Eosalie's voice — '' and
I was afraid it would be cold."

The door opened, and her husband came in.
He was evidently struck by her improved looks.



** Are we not gay in our new bonnet ? *' he
said to Clemence. ''I am just in time,
Kosalie, to escort thee to the Jardin Bota-

''Thanks" — Clemence 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
imusing companion ; and I have to take care
of Loulou and little Clemence."

''As it pleases thee; but I suppose we
may as well start together."

Louis spoke carelessly ; but it seemed to
Clemence that he was wounded. He stood
whistling, with his hands in his pockets,
while the children were got ready.

Clemence sighed when they had all gone
away. It had been sad enough to see the
disunion between Kosalie and her grand-
mother ; but this was worse. Was Louis
really an unkind husband, and was this the
secret of the change in Kosalie ? 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 Van Kooms family,


and the devotion evinced by Madame de Vos
to her grandchildren.

** I am glad the day is so fine," said Cle-

Madame de Vos grunted and turned away
with a discontented look on her pink face.

** Ta, ta, ta. Thou art glad for Rosalie to
play peacock. Listen, Clemence, ifthouwert
married to Louis, would it be necessary for
thee to chatter to all the officers in the town ? "

Clemence gave a little start, but she began
to talk of something else ; she would not be-
lieve evil of Eosalie.

Louis came home long before Rosalie did ;
he brought Loulou with him. Clemence
found the little boy in his nursery, crying.

"Papa has sent me away from him," he
sobbed ; '' and mamma has called me a
naughty boy, and I am not naughty, aunt."

Clemence always stole some minutes every
day from the invalid, to play with the child-
ren ; 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. Clemence
romped and laughed until 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 Clemence's
face was hidden in his curls.

At the moment Eosalie appeared at the
other end of the passage; she looked flushed
and angry, and she passed on into her room
without a word.

When Clemence went downstairs to supper,
she found Louis alone.

** I am not going out this evening," he
said. '* We need not wait supper for Eosalie;
she has gone to bed."

** What is it ? " Clemence 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 Eosalie really miserable, or is it
only before others that they speak so coldly?"

Marriage was different from what Clemence
had pictured it : and yet when she thought of


her father and mother, she felt that there
must be something amiss between Louis and

Next morning, at breakfast-time, Loulou sat
close to his mother.

'' The aunt Clemence 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 Clemence."

Eosalie 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 news-
paper. Generally he ate his breakfast without
making a remark of any kind ; but Loulou
w^as his special darling^.

'' Thou art unjust," he said to his wife : it
was not Loulou who upset the coffee."

Eosalie's eyes flashed.

** No ; of course it is always I who am to
blame — I who am wrong with everyone."

She got up and left the breakfast-table.


Louis muttered an exclamation, and then he
smiled at Clemence.

^' Will you pour out coffee, or shall I ? " he

Clemence felt miserable.

** Go after her," she said, in a low voice.

Louis raised his eyebrows.

*'It is useless. You are not used to Eo-
salie : 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," Clemence 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.

Clemence 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
Clemence! but" — he twined his arms round
her neck — ^' I do love thee best in the world."
Aunt Clemence was glad to hide her eyes
among his golden curls. She was shocked,
frightened even, that Eosalie could thus teach
her child evil ; and yet, what could she do ?
If she spoke to Eosalie, it might perhaps bring
open discord between them.

While she stood hugging the child in her
arms, Kosalie's door opened.

Clemence 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 another,
and hesitated.

*' Go, Loulou," said Clemence; and he
bounded upstau's.

*' Why dost thou send him away, Clemence ?
When I asked thee to come and nurse our
grandmother, it was not that thou might'st
rule my children and my house."


Clemence opened her bed-room door.

*' Come in here," she said. RosaUe had
spoken in a high, constrained voice, and one
of the servants was crossing the end of the

Rosalie followed her sister, but she went on

** 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

*' Listen to me." Clemence spoke firmly.
** Rosalie, thou art not happy, and thy vexa-
tion 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 grandmother. Wliy, Rosalie,"
Clemence's eyes were full of tender sweetness
as 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, Clemence.
Cold, correct people do not know how warm
hearts suffer." Tears sprang to her angiy
eyes, but she wiped them away. *' It is
useless for one to try to teach another."

Clemence 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 always talk of what they
cannot understand/' she said, bitterly. *' I
suppose I shall get a lecture next on be-
haviour towards Louis : I am thankful all the
same;" she courtseyed profoundly, and then
swept haughtily on to the door; *'but, Cle-
mence, when I want advice about my be-
haviour, I will ask for it."



TV/rONSIEUK DE VOS is pacing slowly up
and down the courtyard of the '' Ours
d'Or," his head droops forward, his hands are
clasped behind him ; between them he holds
an open letter. He has been walking up and
down in perplexed silence for at least ten
minutes — silence unbroken except by the
vociferations of Clemence's canary-bird from
his green and gold cage in one of the arbours.

The silence, however, is not solitary.
Elodie stands at her kitchen door. The
wind has a keen easterly twang in it, but
Elodie has forgotten her rheumatism ; she
stands with her left hand clasping her
waist, and the fingers of the right hand
pressed against her lips, as if to keep in

For, though she has been dumb, her face
is full of defiance. She has burst forth once
in vehement disapproval, and has been bid to
hold her peace ; but the remainder of her


objections are on her tongue with a sure

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Online LibraryKatharine Sarah MacquoidLost Rose. And other stories (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 12)