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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/261

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THE DUCHESS JOSIANA.

women. The coquette and the pedant are near neighbours. Their kinship is visible in the fop. The subtile is derived from the sensual. Gluttony affects delicacy; a grimace of disgust conceals cupidity. And then woman feels her weak point guarded by all that casuistry of gallantry which takes the place of scruples in prudes. It is a line of circumvallation with a ditch. Every prude puts on an air of repugnance; it is a protection. She will consent eventually, but she disdains—for the present.

Josiana had an uneasy conscience. She felt such a leaning towards immodesty that she was a prude. The very pride which causes us to shrink from certain vices leads us into others of an entirely different character. It was the excessive effort to be chaste which made Josiana a prude. To be too much on the defensive evinces a secret desire for attack; the truly modest woman is not strait-laced. Josiana shut herself up in the arrogance of the exceptional circumstances of her rank, meditating, perhaps, all the while some sudden lapse from it.

It was the dawn of the eighteenth century. England was a sketch of what France was during the regency. Walpole and Dubois were not unlike. Marlborough was fighting against his former king, James II., to whom it was said he had sold his sister, Miss Churchill. Bolingbroke was in the height and Richelieu in the dawn of his glory. Gallantry found a certain medley of ranks convenient. Men were made equal by their vices as they were later on, perhaps, by their ideas. Degradation of rank, an aristocratic prelude, began what the revolution was to complete. It was not very far from the time when Jélyotte was seen sitting publicly in broad daylight, on the bed of the Marquise d'Epinay. It is true (for manners re-echo each other) that in the