In this and in other ways he showed kindly consideration, but his mind continually reverted to his work and outdoor plans with the preoccupation of one who finds that he can again give his thethereum classic holdersoughts to something from which they had been most reluctantly withdrawn. Thus Alida was left alone most of the time. When the dusk of evening came he was too tired to say much, and he retired early that he might be fresh for work again when the sun appeared. She had no regrets, for although she kept busy she was resting and her wounds were healing through the long, quiet days.
"I can save you the trouble," said she.bittorrent coin price cad"Ah, but my instructions! my instructions!" cried the militarypedant, and ran off into the house, and left Josephine "plantedthere," as they say in France.
Raynal demanded a private interview of the baroness so significantlyand unceremoniously that Rose had no alternative but to retire, butnot without a glance of defiance at the bear. She ran straight,without her bonnet, into the Pleasaunce to slake her curiosity atJosephine. That young lady was walking pensively, but turned atsight of Rose, and the sisters came together with a clash of tongues."O Rose! he has"--"Oh!"So nimbly does the female mind run on its little beaten tracks, thatit took no more than those syllables for even these innocent youngwomen to communicate that Raynal had popped.Josephine apologized for this weakness in a hero. "It wasn't hisfault," said she. "It is your Edouard who set him to do it.""My Edouard? Don't talk in that horrid way: I have no Edouard. Yousaid 'no' of course.""Something of the kind.""What, did you not say 'no' plump?""I did not say it brutally, dear.""Josephine, you frighten me. I know you can't say 'no' to any one;and if you don't say 'no' plump to such a man as this, you might aswell say 'yes.'""Well, love," said Josephine, "you know our mother will relieve meof this; what a comfort to have a mother!"They waited for Raynal's departure, to go to the baroness. They hadto wait a long time. Moreover, when he did leave the chateau hecame straight into the Pleasaunce. At sight of him Rose seizedJosephine tight and bade her hold her tongue, as she could not say"no" plump to any one. Josephine was far from raising any objectionto the arrangement."Monsieur," said Rose, before he could get a word out, "even if shehad not declined, I could not consent."Raynal tapped his forehead reflectively, and drew forth from memorythat he had no instructions whatever to ask HER consent.She colored high, but returned to the charge.
"Is her own consent to be dispensed with too? She declined thehonor, did she not?""Of course she did; but this was anticipated in my instructions. Iam to be sure and not take the first two or three refusals.""O Josephine, look at that insolent boy: he has found you out.""Insolent boy!" cried Raynal; "why, it is the referee of your ownchoosing, and as well behaved a lad as ever I saw, and a zealousofficer.""My kind friends," put in Josephine with a sweet languor, "I cannotlet you quarrel about a straw.""It is not about a straw," said Raynal, "it is about you.""The distinction involves a compliment, sir," said Josephine; thenshe turned to Rose, "Is it possible you do not see Monsieur Raynal'sstrange proposal in its true light? and you so shrewd in general.He has no personal feeling whatever in this eccentric proceeding: hewants to make us all happy, especially my mother, without seeming tolay us under too great an obligation. Surely good-nature was nevercarried so far before; ha, ha! Monsieur, I will encumber you with myfriendship forever, if you permit me, but farther than that I willnot abuse your generosity.""Now look here, mademoiselle," began Raynal bluntly, "I did startwith a good motive at first, that there's no denying. But, since Ihave been every day in your company, and seen how good and kind youare to all about you, I have turned selfish; and I say to myself,what a comfort such a wife as you would be to a soldier! Why, onlyto have you to write letters home to, would be worth half a fellow'spay. Do you know sometimes when I see the fellows writing theirletters it gives me a knock here to think I have no one at all towrite to."Josephine sighed."Will you do exactly what I say now?"
She nodded."Well, go home across the fields and don't by word or manner let Mrs. Holcroft know what you've seen or heard, and say nothing about meeting me. Just make her think you know nothing at all and that you only watched the man out of sight. Do this and I'll give you a new dress.""I'd like somethin' else 'sides that.""Well, what?"
"I'd like to be sure I could stay right on with you.""Yes, Jane, after today, as long as you're a good girl. Now go, for I must get back to my team before this scamp goes by."
She darted homeward as the farmer returned to his wagon. Ferguson soon appeared and seemed much startled as he saw his Nemesis again. "I'll keep my word," he said, as he drove by."You'd better!" called the farmer. "You know what to expect now."Alida was so prostrated by the shock of the interview that she rallied slowly. At last she saw that it was getting late and that she soon might expect the return of her husband. She dragged herself to the door and again called Jane, but the place was evidently deserted. Evening was coming on tranquilly, with all its sweet June sounds, but now every bird song was like a knell. She sunk on the porch seat and looked at the landscape, already so dear and familiar, as if she were taking a final farewell of a friend. Then she turned to the homely kitchen to which she had first been brought. "I can do a little more for him," she thought, "before I make the last sacrifice which will soon bring the end. I think I could have lived--lived, perhaps, till I was old, if I had gone among strangers from the almshouse, but I can't now. My heart is broken. Now that I've seen that man again I understand why my husband cannot love me. Even the thought of touching me must make him shudder. But I can't bear up under such a load much longer, and that's my comfort. It's best I should go away now; I couldn't do otherwise," and the tragedy went on in her soul as she feebly prepared her husband's meal.At last Jane came in with her basket of peas. Her face was so impassive as to suggest that she had no knowledge of anything except that there had been a visitor, and Alida had sunk into such depths of despairing sorrow that she scarcely noticed the child.
Chapter 33 ＂Shrink from YOU?＂Holcroft soon came driving slowly up the lane as if nothing unusual was on his mind. Having tied his horses, he brought in an armful of bundles and said kindly, "Well, Alida, here I am again, and I guess I've brought enough to last well through haying time.""Yes," she replied with averted face. This did not trouble him any now, but her extreme pallor did and he added, "You don't look well. I wouldn't mind getting much supper tonight. Let Jane do the work."
"I'd rather do it," she replied."Oh, well!" laughing pleasantly, "you shall have your own way. Who has a better right than you, I'd like to know?"
"Don't speak that way," she said, almost harshly, under the tension of her feelings. "I--I can't stand it. Speak and look as you did before you went away.""Jane," said the farmer, "go and gather the eggs."
As soon as they were alone, he began gently, "Alida--""Please don't speak so to me today. I've endured all I can. I can't keep up another minute unless you let things go on as they were. Tomorrow I'll try to tell you all. It's your right.""I didn't mean to say anything myself till after supper, and perhaps not till tomorrow, but I think I'd better. It will be better for us both, and our minds will be more at rest. Come with me into the parlor, Alida.""Well, perhaps the sooner it's over the better," she said faintly and huskily.She sunk on the lounge and looked at him with such despairing eyes that tears came into his own."Alida," he began hesitatingly, "after I left you this noon I felt I must speak with and be frank with you."
"No, no!!" she cried, with an imploring gesture, "if it must be said, let me say it. I couldn't endure to hear it from you. Before you went away I understood it all, and this afternoon the truth has been burned into my soul. That horrible man has been here--the man I thought my husband--and he has made it clearer, if possible. I don't blame you that you shrink from me as if I were a leper. I feel as if I were one.""I shrink from YOU!" he exclaimed.
"Yes. Can you think I haven't seen the repugnance growing in spite of yourself? When I thought of that man--especially when he came today--I understood WHY too well. I cannot stay here any longer. You'd try to be kind and considerate, but I'd know how you felt all the time. It would not be safe for you and it would not be right for me to stay, either, and that settles it. Be--be as kind to me--as you can a few--a few hours longer, and then let me go quietly." Her self-control gave way, and burying her face in her hands, she sobbed convulsively.In a moment he was on his knees beside her, with his arm about her waist. "Alida, dear Alida!" he cried, "we've both been in the dark about each other. What I resolved to do, when I started for town, was to tell you that I had learned to love you and to throw myself on your mercy. I thought you saw I was loving you and that you couldn't bear to think of such a thing in an old, homely fellow like me. That was all that was in my mind, so help me God!"
"But--but HE'S been here," she faltered; "you don't realize--""I don't believe I do or can, yet, Alida, dear, but that blessed Jane's spying trait has served me the best turn in the world. She heard every brave word you said and I shed tears of joy when she told me; and tears are slow coming to my eyes. You think I shrink from you, do you?" and he kissed her hands passionately. "See," he cried, "I kneel to you in gratitude for all you've been to me and are to me."
"Oh, James! Please rise. It's too much.""No, not till you promise to go with me to a minister and hear me promise to love, cherish--yes, in your case I'll promise to obey."She bowed her head upon his shoulder in answer. Springing up, he clasped her close and kissed away her tears as he exclaimed, "No more business marriage for me, if you please. There never was a man so in love with his wife."Suddenly she looked up and said fearfully, "James, he threatened you. He said you'd never be safe a moment as long as I stayed here."
His answer was a peal of laughter. "I've done more than threaten him. I've whipped him within an inch of his life, and it was the thought of you that led me, in my rage, to spare his life. I'll tell you all--I'm going to tell you everything now. How much trouble I might have saved if I had told you my thoughts! What was there, Alida, in an old fellow like me that led you to care so?"Looking up shyly, she replied, "I think it was the MAN in you--and--then you stood up for me so."
"Well, love is blind, I suppose, but it don't seem to me that mine is. There never was a man so taken in at his marriage. You were so different from what I expected that I began loving you before I knew it, but I thought you were good to me just as you were to Jane--from a sense of duty--and that you couldn't abide me personally. So I tried to keep out of your way. And, Alida, dear, I thought at first that I was taken by your good traits and your education and all that, but I found out at last that I had fallen in love with YOU. Now you know all. You feel better now, don't you?""Yes," she breathed softly.
"You've had enough to wear a saint out," he continued kindly. "Lie down on the lounge and I'll bring your supper to you.""No, please! It will do me more good to go on and act as if nothing had happened."
"Well, have your own way, little wife. You're boss now, sure enough."She drew him to the porch, and together they looked upon the June landscape which she had regarded with such despairing eyes an hour before."Happiness never kills, after all," she said."Shouldn't be alive if it did," he replied. "The birds seem to sing as if they knew."
Jane emerged from the barn door with a basket of eggs, and Alida sped away to meet her. The first thing the child knew the arms of her mistress were about her neck and she was kissed again and again."What did you do that for?" she asked.
"You'll understand some day.""Say," said Jane in an impulse of good will, "if you're only half married to Mr. Holcroft, I'd go the whole figure, 'fi's you. If you'd 'a' seen him a-thrashin' that scamp you'd know he's the man to take care of you."
"Yes, Jane, I know. He'll take care of me always."The next morning Holcroft and Alida drove to town and went to the church which she and her mother used to attend. After the service they followed the clergyman home, where Alida again told him her story, though not without much help from the farmer. After some kindly reproach that she had not brought her troubles to him at first, the minister performed a ceremony which found deep echoes in both their hearts.