She was finally left almost to utter idleness, for Jane and Mrs. Wiggins gradually took from the incompetent hands even the light tasks which she had attempted. She made no protest, regarding all as another proof that Holcroft was beginning to recognize her superiority and unfitness for menial tasks. She would maintain, however, her character as the caretaker and ostentatiously inspected everything; shkishu coin okexe also tried to make as much noise in fastening up the dwelling at night as if she were barricading a castle. Holcroft would listen grimly, well aware that no house had been entered in Oakville during his memory. He had taken an early occasion to say at the table that he wished no one to enter his room except Jane, and that he would not permit any infringement of this rule. Mrs. Mumpson's feelings had been hurt at first by this order, but she soon satisfied herself that it had been meant for Mrs. Wiggins' benefit and not her own. She found, however, that Jane interpreted it literally. "If either of you set foot in that room, I'll tell him," she said flatly. "I've had my orders and I'm a-goin' to obey. There's to be no more rummagin'. If you'll give me the keys I'll put things back in order ag'in."
A frightful overture began at once, the hooting and yelling almost drowning the instrumental part and sending to Alida's heart that awful chill of fear produced by human voices in any mob-like assemblage. Holcroft understood thclient bittorrent onlinee affair at once, for he was familiar with the custom, but she did not. He threw open the door with the purpose of sternly expostulating with the disturbers of the peace and of threatening them with the law unless they retired. With an instinct to share his danger she stepped to his side, and this brought a yell of derision. Lurid thoughts swept through her mind. She had brought this danger. Her story had become known. What might they not do to Holcroft? Under the impulse of vague terror and complete self-sacrifice, she stepped forward and cried, "I only am to blame. I will go away forever if you will spare--" But again the scornful clamor rose and drowned her voice.Her action and words had been so swift that Holcroft could not interfere, but in an instant he was at her side, his arm around her, his square jaw set, and his eyes blazing with his kindling anger. He was not one of those men who fume early under provocation and in words chiefly. His manner and gesture were so impressive that his tormentors paused to listen.
"I know," he said quietly, "all about this old, rude custom--that it's often little more than a rough lark. Well, now that you've had it, leave at once. I'm in no mood for such attention from my neighbors. This is my wife, and I'll break any man's head who says a word to hurt her feelings--""Oh yes! Take care of her feelings, now it's your turn. They must 'a' been hurt before," piped up Tim Weeks."Good for you, old man, for showin' us your poorhouse bride," said another."We don't fancy such grass-widders, and much married, half-married women in Oakville," yelled a third."Why didn't yer jump over a broomstick for a weddin' ceremony?" someone else bawled.
These insults were fired almost in a volley. Alida felt Holcroft's arm grow rigid for a second. "Go in, quick!" he said.Then she saw him seize the hickory sapling he had leaned against the house, and burst upon the group like a thunderbolt. Cries of pain, yells, and oaths of rage rose above the rain of blows. The older members of the crew sought to close upon him, but he sprung back, and the tough sapling swept about him like a circle of light. It was a terrific weapon in the hands of a strong man, now possessed of almost giant strength in his rage. More than one fellow went down under its stinging cut, and heads and faces were bleeding. The younger portion of the crowd speedily took to their heels, and soon even the most stubborn fled; the farmer vigorously assisting their ignominious retreat with tremendous downward blows on any within reach. Tim Weeks had managed to keep out of the way till they entered the lane; then, taking a small stone from the fence, he hurled it at their pursuer and attempted to jump over the wall. This was old, and gave way under him in such a way that he fell on the other side. Holcroft leaped the fence with a bound, but Tim, lying on his back, shrieked and held up his hands, "You won't hit a feller when he's down!""Rose," said the baroness, her eye now beginning to twinkle, "wereyou really guilty of such a want of discrimination? Didn't you lovemonsieur?"Rose flung her arms round her mother's neck, and said, "No, mamma, Idid not love Monsieur Edouard," in an exquisite tone of love, thatto a female ear conveyed the exact opposite of the words.
But Edouard had not that nice discriminating ear. He sighed deeply,and the baroness smiled. "You tell me that?" said she, "and you arecrying!""She is crying, madame?" said Edouard, inquiringly, and taking astep towards them."Why, you see she is, you foolish boy. Come, I must put an end tothis;" and she rose coolly from her seat, and begging Edouard toforgive her for leaving him a moment with his deadly enemy, went offwith knowing little nods into Josephine's room; only, before sheentered it, she turned, and with a maternal smile discharged thisword at the pair."Babies!"But between the alienated lovers was a long distressing silence.Neither knew what to say; and their situation was intolerable. Atlast Rose ventured in a timorous voice to say, "I thank you for yourgenerosity. But I knew that you would not betray me.""Your secret is safe for me," sighed Edouard. "Is there anythingelse I can do for you?"Rose shook her head sadly.
Edouard moved to the door.Rose bowed her head with a despairing moan. It took him by theheart and held him. He hesitated, then came towards her.
"I see you are sorry for what you have done to me who loved you so;and you loved me. Oh! yes, do not deny it, Rose; there was a timeyou loved me. And that makes it worse: to have given me such sweethopes, only to crush both them and me. And is not this cruel of youto weep so and let me see your penitence--when it is too late?""Alas! how can I help my regrets? I have insulted so good afriend."There was a sad silence. Then as he looked at her, her looks beliedthe charge her own lips had made against herself.A light seemed to burst on Edouard from that high-minded, sorrow-stricken face."Tell me it is false!" he cried.She hid her face in her hands--woman's instinct to avoid being read.
"Tell me you were misled then, fascinated, perverted, but that yourheart returned to me. Clear yourself of deliberate deceit, and Iwill believe and thank you on my knees.""Heaven have pity on us both!" cried poor Rose."On us! Thank you for saying on us. See now, you have not gainedhappiness by destroying mine. One word--do you love that man?--thatDujardin?""You know I do not.""I am glad of that; since his life is forfeited; if he escapes myfriend Raynal, he shall not escape me."Rose uttered a cry of terror. "Hush! not so loud. The life ofCamille! Oh! if he were to die, what would become of--oh, pray donot speak so loud.""Own then that you DO love him," yelled Edouard; "give me truth, ifyou have no love to give. Own that you love him, and he shall besafe. It is myself I will kill, for being such a slave as to loveyou still."Rose's fortitude gave way."I cannot bear it," she cried despairingly; "it is beyond mystrength; Edouard, swear to me you will keep what I tell you secretas the grave!""Ah!" cried Edouard, all radiant with hope, "I swear.""Then you are under a delirium. I have deceived, but never wrongedyou; that unhappy child is not-- Hush! HERE SHE COMES."The baroness came smiling out, and Josephine's wan, anxious face wasseen behind her."Well," said the baroness, "is the war at an end? What, are westill silent? Let me try then what I can do. Edouard, lend me yourhand."While Edouard hesitated, Josephine clasped her hands and mutelysupplicated him to consent. Her sad face, and the thought of howoften she had stood his friend, shook his resolution. He held outhis hand, but slowly and reluctantly.
"There is my hand," he groaned."And here is mine, mamma," said Rose, smiling to please her mother.
Oh! the mixture of feeling, when her soft warm palm pressed his.How the delicious sense baffled and mystified the cold judgment.
Josephine raised her eyes thankfully to heaven.While the young lovers yet thrilled at each other's touch, yet couldnot look one another in the face, a clatter of horses' feet washeard."That is Colonel Raynal," said Josephine, with unnatural calmness."I expected him to-day."The baroness was at the side window in a moment."It is he!--it is he!"She hurried down to embrace her son.Josephine went without a word to her own room. Rose followed herthe next minute. But in that one minute she worked magic.
She glided up to Edouard, and looked him full in the face: not thesad, depressed, guilty-looking humble Rose of a moment before, butthe old high-spirited, and some what imperious girl."You have shown yourself noble this day. I am going to trust you asonly the noble are trusted. Stay in the house till I can speak toyou."She was gone, and something leaped within Edouard's bosom, and aflood of light seemed to burst in on him. Yet he saw no objectclearly: but he saw light.
Rose ran into Josephine's room, and once more surprised her on herknees, and in the very act of hiding something in her bosom."What are you doing, Josephine, on your knees?" said she, sternly.
"I have a great trial to go through," was the hesitating answer.Rose said nothing. She turned paler. She is deceiving me, thoughtshe, and she sat down full of bitterness and terror, and, affectingnot to watch Josephine, watched her.
"Go and tell them I am coming, Rose.""No, Josephine, I will not leave you till this terrible meeting isover. We will encounter him hand in hand, as we used to go when ourhearts were one, and we deceived others, but never each other."At this tender reproach Josephine fell upon her neck and wept."I will not deceive you," she said. "I am worse than the poordoctor thinks me. My life is but a little candle that a breath mayput out any day."Rose said nothing, but trembled and watched her keenly."My little Henri," said Josephine imploringly, "what would you dowith him--if anything should happen to me?""What would I do with him? He is mine. I should be his mother.Oh! what words are these: my heart! my heart!""No, dearest; some day you will be married, and owe all the motherto your children; and Henri is not ours only: he belongs to some oneI have seemed unkind to. Perhaps he thinks me heartless. For I ama foolish woman; I don't know how to be virtuous, yet show a man myheart. But THEN he will understand me and forgive me. Rose, love,you will write to him. He will come to you. You will go togetherto the place where I shall be sleeping. You will show him my heart.
You will tell him all my long love that lasted to the end. YOU neednot blush to tell him all. I have no right. Then you will give himhis poor Josephine's boy, and you will say to him, 'She never lovedbut you: she gives you all that is left of her, her child. She onlyprays you not to give him a bad mother.'"Poor soul! this was her one bit of little, gentle jealousy; but itmade her eyes stream. She would have put out her hand from the tombto keep her boy's father single all his life."Oh! my Josephine, my darling sister," cried Rose, "why do you speakof death? Do you meditate a crime?""No; but it was on my heart to say it: it has done me good.""At least, take me to your bosom, my well-beloved, that I may notSEE your tears.""There--tears? No, you have lightened my heart. Bless you! blessyou!"The sisters twined their bosoms together in a long, gentle embrace.
You might have taken them for two angels that flowed together in onelove, but for their tears.A deep voice was now heard in the sitting-room.
Josephine and Rose postponed the inevitable one moment more, byarranging their hair in the glass: then they opened the door, andentered the tapestried room.Raynal was sitting on the sofa, the baroness's hand in his. Edouardwas not there.
Colonel Raynal had given him a strange look, and said, "What, youhere?" in a tone of voice that was intolerable.Raynal came to meet the sisters. He saluted Josephine on the brow."You are pale, wife: and how cold her hand is.""She has been ill this month past," said Rose interposing."You look ill, too, Mademoiselle Rose.""Never mind," cried the baroness joyously, "you will revive themboth."Raynal made no reply to that.
"How long do you stay this time, a day?""A month, mother."The doctor now joined the party, and friendly greetings passedbetween him and Raynal.But ere long somehow all became conscious this was not a joyfulmeeting. The baroness could not alone sustain the spirits of theparty, and soon even she began to notice that Raynal's replies wereshort, and that his manner was distrait and gloomy. The sisters sawthis too, and trembled for what might be coming.
At last Raynal said bluntly, "Josephine, I want to speak to youalone."The baroness gave the doctor a look, and made an excuse for goingdown-stairs to her own room. As she was going Josephine went to herand said calmly,--"Mother, you have not kissed me to-day.""There! Bless you, my darling!"Raynal looked at Rose. She saw she must go, but she lingered, andsought her sister's eye: it avoided her. At that Rose ran to thedoctor, who was just going out of the door."Oh! doctor," she whispered trembling, "don't go beyond the door. Ifound her praying. My mind misgives me. She is going to tell him--or something worse.""What do you mean?""I am afraid to say all I dread. She could not be so calm if shemeant to live. Be near! as I shall. She has a phial hid in herbosom."She left the old man trembling, and went back.
"Excuse me," said she to Raynal, "I only came to ask Josephine ifshe wants anything.""No!--yes!--a glass of eau sucree."Rose mixed it for her. While doing this she noticed that Josephineshunned her eye, but Raynal gazed gently and with an air of pity onher.She retired slowly into Josephine's bedroom, but did not quite closethe door.