Mrs. Mumpson was sane enough to perceive that she was at the end of her adhesive resources. In his possession of her trunk, the farmer also had a strategic advantage which made it necessary for her to yield. She did so, however, with very bad grace. When he drove up, she bounced into the wagon as if made of India rubber, while Jane followed slowly, with a look of sullen apathy. He touched his horses with the whip into a smart trot, scarcely daring to believe in his gopolkadot vs cardano chartod fortune. The lane was rather steep and rough, and he soon had to pull up lest the object of his unhappy solicitude should be jolted out of the vehicle. This gave the widow her chance to open fire. "The end has not come yet, Mr. Holcroft," she said vindictively. "You may think you are going to have an easy triumph over a poor, friendless, unfortunate, sensitive, afflicted woman and a fatherless child, but you shall soon learn that there's a law in the land. You have addressed improper words to me, you have threatened me, you have broken your agreement. I have writings, I have a memory, I have language to plead the cause of the widow and the fatherless. I have been wronged, outraged, trampled upon, and then turned out of doors. The indignant world shall hear my story, the finger of scorn will be pointed at you. Your name will become a byword and a hissing. Respecterble women, respecterbly connected, will stand aloof and shudder."
"I think," said he, "she merely meant how short-lived are we allcompared with this ancient oak. I should be very sorry to adopt theother interpretation; for if she knows she can at any moment beexpelled fromanchor coatings solana beach Beaurepaire, it will be almost as bad for her as thecalamity itself; THAT, I think, would kill her.""Why so?" said Rose, eagerly. "What is this house or that? Mammawill still have her daughters' love, go where she will."Aubertin replied, "It is idle to deceive ourselves; at her age menand women hang to life by their habits; take her away from herchateau, from the little oratory where she prays every day for thedeparted, from her place in the sun on the south terrace, and fromall the memories that surround her here; she would soon pine, anddie."Here the savant seeing a hobby-horse near, caught him and jumped on.He launched into a treatise upon the vitality of human beings, andproved that it is the mind which keeps the body of a man alive forso great a length of time as fourscore years; for that he had in theearlier part of his studies carefully dissected a multitude ofanimals,--frogs, rabbits, dogs, men, horses, sheep, squirrels,foxes, cats, etc.,--and discovered no peculiarity in man's organs toaccount for his singular longevity, except in the brain or organ ofmind. Thence he went to the longevity of men with contented minds,and the rapid decay of the careworn. Finally he succeeded inconvincing them the baroness was so constituted, physically andmentally, that she would never move from Beaurepaire except into hergrave. However, having thus terrified them, he proceeded to consolethem. "You have a friend," said he, "a powerful friend; and here inmy pocket--somewhere--is a letter that proves it."The letter was from Mr. Perrin the notary. It appeared by it thatDr. Aubertin had reminded the said Perrin of his obligations to thelate baron, and entreated him to use all his influence to keep theestate in this ancient family.
Perrin had replied at first in a few civil lines; but his presentletter was a long and friendly one. It made both the daughters ofBeaurepaire shudder at the peril they had so narrowly escaped. Forby it they now learned for the first time that one Jaques Bonard, asmall farmer, to whom they owed but five thousand francs, had goneto the mayor and insisted, as he had a perfect right, on the estatebeing put up to public auction. This had come to Perrin's ears justin time, and he had instantly bought Bonard's debt, and stopped theauction; not, however, before the very bills were printed; for whichhe, Perrin, had paid, and now forwarded the receipt. He concludedby saying that the government agent was personally inert, and wouldnever move a step in the matter unless driven by a creditor."But we have so many," said Rose in dismay. "We are not safe a day."Aubertin assured her the danger was only in appearance. "Your largecreditors are men of property, and such men let their funds lieunless compelled to move them. The small mortgagee, the pettymiser, who has, perhaps, no investment to watch but one small loan,about which he is as anxious and as noisy as a hen with one chicken,he is the clamorous creditor, the harsh little egoist, who for fearof risking a crown piece would bring the Garden of Eden to thehammer. Now we are rid of that little wretch, Bonard, and havePerrin on our side; so there is literally nothing to fear."The sisters thanked him warmly, and Rose shared his hopes; and saidso; but Josephine was silent and thoughtful. Nothing more worthrecording passed that night. But the next day was the first of May,Josephine's birthday.Now they always celebrated this day as well as they could; and usedto plant a tree, for one thing. Dard, well spurred by Jacintha, hadgot a little acacia; and they were all out in the Pleasaunce toplant it. Unhappily, they were a preposterous time making up theirfeminine minds where to have it set; so Dard turned rusty and saidthe park was the best place for it. There it could do no harm,stick it where you would."And who told you to put in your word?" inquired Jacintha. "You'rehere to dig the hole where mademoiselle chooses; not to argufy."Josephine whispered Rose, "I admire the energy of her character.Could she be induced to order once for all where the poor thing isto be planted?""Then where WILL you have it, mademoiselle?" asked Dard, sulkily.
"Here, I think, Dard," said Josephine sweetly.Dard grinned malignantly, and drove in his spade. "It will never bemuch bigger than a stinging nettle," thought he, "for the roots ofthe oak have sucked every atom of heart out of this." His blacksoul exulted secretly.Soon after this Raynal ordered his charger.
The baroness began to cry. "The young people may hope to see youagain," said she; "but there are two chances against your poor oldmother.""Courage, mother!" cried the stout soldier. "No, no; you won't playme such a trick: once is enough for that game.""Brother!" cried Rose, "do not go without kissing your littlesister, who loves you and thanks you." He kissed her. "Bravo,generous soul!" she cried, with her arms round his neck. "Godprotect you, and send you back safe to us!""Amen!" cried all present by one impulse, even the cold notary.Raynal's mustache quivered. He kissed Josephine hastily on thebrow, the baroness on both cheeks; shook the men's hands warmly buthastily, and strode out without looking behind him. He was movedfor once.They all followed him to the door of the house. He was tighteninghis horse's girths. He flung himself with all the resolution of hissteel nature into the saddle, and, with one grand wave of his cockedhat to the tearful group, he spurred away for Egypt.Chapter 9
The baroness took the doctor a-shopping; she must buy Rose a graysilk. In doing this she saw many other tempting things. I say nomore.But the young ladies went up to Beaurepaire in the other carriage,for Josephine wished to avoid the gaze of the town, and get home andbe quiet. The driver went very fast. He had drunk the bride'shealth at the mayor's, item the bridegroom's, the bridesmaid's, themayor's, etc., and "a spur in the head is worth two in the heel,"says the proverb. The sisters leaned back on the soft cushions, andenjoyed the smooth and rapid motion once so familiar to them, sorare of late.
Then Rose took her sister gently to task for having offered to go toEgypt. She had forgotten her poor sister."No, love," replied Josephine, "did you not see I dared not looktowards you? I love you better than all the world; but this was myduty. I was his wife: I had no longer a feeble inclination and afeeble disinclination to decide between, but right on one side,wrong on the other.""Oh! I know where your ladyship's strength lies: my force is--in--myinclinations.""Yes, Rose," continued Josephine thoughtfully, "duty is a greatcomfort: it is so tangible; it is something to lay hold of for lifeor death; a strong tower for the weak but well disposed."Rose assented, and they were silent a minute; and when she spokeagain it was to own she loved a carriage. "How fast we glide! Nowlean back with me, and take my hand, and as we glide shut your eyesand think: whisper me all your feelings, every one of them.""Well, then," said Josephine, half closing her eyes, "in the firstplace I feel a great calm, a heavenly calm. My fate is decided. Nomore suspense. My duties are clear. I have a husband I am proudof. There is no perfidy with him, no deceit, no disingenuousness,no shade. He is a human sun. He will make me a better, truerwoman, and I him a happier man. Yes, is it not nice to think thatgreat and strong as he is I can teach him a happiness he knows notas yet?" And she smiled with the sense of her delicate power, butsaid no more; for she was not the one to talk much about herself.But Rose pressed her. "Yes, go on, dear," she said, "I seem to seeyour pretty little thoughts rising out of your heart like a bubblingfountain: go on."Thus encouraged, Josephine thought on aloud, "And then, gratitude!"said she. "I have heard it said, or read it somewhere, thatgratitude is a burden: I cannot understand that sentiment; why, tome gratitude is a delight, gratitude is a passion. It is thewarmest of all the tender feelings I have for dear Monsieur Raynal.I feel it glow here, in my bosom. I think I shall love him as Iought long before he comes back.""BEFORE?""Yes," murmured Josephine, her eyes still half closed. "His virtueswill always be present to me. His little faults of manner will notbe in sight. Good Raynal! The image of those great qualities Irevere so, perhaps because I fail in them myself, will be before mymind; and ere he comes home I shall love him dearly. I'll tell youone reason why I wished to go home at once was--no--you must guess.""Guess?" said Rose, contemptuously. "As if I did not see it was toput on your gray silk."Josephine smiled assent, and said almost with fervor, "Good Raynal!
I feel prouder of his honest name than of our noble one. And I amso calm, dear, thanks to you, so tranquil; so pleased that mymother's mind is at rest, so convinced all is for the best, socontented with my own lot; so hap--py."A gentle tear stole from beneath her long lashes. Rose looked ather wistfully: then laid her cheek to hers. They leaned back handin hand, placid and silent.The carriage glided fast. Beaurepaire was almost in sight.Suddenly Josephine's hand tightened on Rose's, and she sat up in thecarriage like a person awakened from a strange dream."What is it?" asked Rose.
"Some one in uniform.""Oh, is that all? Ah! you thought it was a message from Raynal.""Oh! no! on foot--walking very slowly. Coming this way, too.Coming this way!" and she became singularly restless, and lookedround in the carriage. It was one of those old chariots with noside windows, but a peep hole at the back. This aperture, however,had a flap over it. Josephine undid the flap with nimble thoughagitated fingers; and saw--nothing. The road had taken a turn.
"Oh," said Rose, carelessly, "for that matter the roads are full ofsoldiers just now.""Ay, but not of officers on foot."Rose gave her such a look, and for the first time this many a dayspoke sternly to her, and asked her what on earth she had to do withuniforms or officers except one, the noblest in the world, herhusband.A month ago that word was almost indifferent to Josephine, or rathershe uttered it with a sort of mild complacency. Now she started atit, and it struck chill upon her. She did not reply, however, andthe carriage rolled on.
"He seemed to be dragging himself along." This was the first wordJosephine had spoken for some time. "Oh, did he?" replied Rosecarelessly; "well, let him. Here we are, at home.""I am glad of it," said Josephine, "very glad."On reaching Beaurepaire she wanted to go up-stairs at once and puton her gray gown. But the day was so delightful that Rose beggedher to stroll in the Pleasaunce for half an hour and watch for theirmother's return. She consented in an absent way, and presentlybegan to walk very fast, unconscious of her companion. Rose laid ahand upon her playfully to moderate her, and found her skin burning."Why, what is the matter?" said she, anxiously."Nothing, nothing," was the sharp reply."There's a fretful tone; and how excited you look, and feel too.Well, I thought you were unnaturally calm after such an event.""I only saw his back," said Josephine. "Did not you see him?""See who? Oh, that tiresome officer. Why, how much more are we tohear about him? I don't believe there WAS one."At this moment a cocked hat came in sight, bobbing up and down abovethe palings that divided the park from the road. Josephine pointedto it without a word.Rose got a little cross at being practically confuted, and saidcoldly, "Come, let us go in; the only cocked hat we can see is onthe way to Paris."Josephine assented eagerly. But she had not taken two steps towardsthe house ere she altered her mind, and said she felt faint, shewanted air; no, she should stay out a little longer. "Look, Rose,"said she, in a strangely excited way, "what a shame! They put allmanner of rubbish into this dear old tree: I will have it all turnedout." And she looked with feigned interest into the tree: but hereyes seemed turned inward.
Rose gave a cry of surprise. "He is waving his hat to me! What onearth does that mean?""Perhaps he takes you for me," said Josephine."Who is it? What do you mean?""IT IS HE! I knew his figure at a glance." And she blushed andtrembled with joy; she darted behind the tree and peered round athim unseen: turning round a moment she found Rose at her back paleand stern. She looked at her, and said with terrible simplicity,"Ah, Rose, I forgot.""Are you mad, Josephine? Into the house this moment; if it IS he, Iwill receive him and send him about his business."But Josephine stood fascinated, and pale as ashes; for now thecocked hat stopped, and a pale face with eyes whose eager fire shoneeven at that distance, rose above the palings. Josephine crouchedbehind Rose, and gasped out, "Something terrible is coming,terrible! terrible!""Say something hateful," said Rose, trembling in her turn, but onlywith anger. "The heartless selfish traitor! He never notices youtill you are married to the noblest of mankind; and then he comeshere directly to ruin your peace. No; I have altered my mind. Heshall not see you, of course; but YOU shall hear HIM. I'll soonmake you know the wretch and loathe him as I do. There, now he hasturned the corner; hide in the oak while he is out of sight. Hide,quick, quick." Josephine obeyed mechanically; and presently,through that very aperture whence her sister had smiled on her lovershe hissed out, in a tone of which one would not have thought hercapable, "Be wise, be shrewd; find out who is the woman that hasseduced him from me, and has brought two wretches to this. I tellyou it is some wicked woman's doing. He loved me once.""Not so loud!--one word: you are a wife. Swear to me you will notlet him see you, come what may.""Oh! never! never!" cried Josephine with terror. "I would ratherdie. When you have heard what he has to say, then tell him I amdead. No, tell him I adore my husband, and went to Egypt this daywith him. Ah! would to God I had!""Sh! sh!""Sh!"Camille was at the little gate.
Rose stood still, and nerved herself in silence. Josephine pantedin her hiding-place.Rose's only thought now was to expose the traitor to her sister, andrestore her peace. She pretended not to see Camille till he wasnear her. He came eagerly towards her, his pale face flushing withgreat joy, and his eyes like diamonds.
"Josephine! It is not Josephine, after all," said he. "Why, thismust be Rose, little Rose, grown up to a fine lady, a beautifullady.""What do you come here for, sir?" asked Rose in a tone of icyindifference."What do I come here for? is that the way to speak to me? but I amtoo happy to mind. Dear Beaurepaire! do I see you once again!""And madame?""What madame?""Madame Dujardin that is or was to be.""This is the first I have ever heard of her," said Camille, gayly.
"This is odd, for we have heard all about it.""Are you jesting?""No.""If I understand you right, you imply that I have broken faith withJosephine?""Certainly.""Then you lie, Mademoiselle Rose de Beaurepaire.""Insolent!""No. It is you who have insulted your sister as well as me. Shewas not made to be deserted for meaner women. Come, mademoiselle,affront me, and me alone, and you shall find me more patient. Oh!who would have thought Beaurepaire would receive me thus?""It is your own fault. You never sent her a line for all theseyears.""Why, how could I?""Well, sir, the information you did not supply others did. We knowthat you were seen in a Spanish village drinking between twoguerillas.""That is true," said Camille."An honest French soldier fired at you. Why, he told us so himself.""He told you true," said Camille, sullenly. "The bullet grazed myhand; see, here is the mark. Look!" She did look, and gave alittle scream; but recovering herself, said she wished it had gonethrough his heart. "Why prolong this painful interview?" said she;"the soldier told us all.""I doubt that," said Camille. "Did he tell you that under the tableI was chained tight down to the chair I sat in? Did he tell youthat my hand was fastened to a drinking-horn, and my elbow to thetable, and two fellows sitting opposite me with pistols quietlycovering me, ready to draw the trigger if I should utter a cry? Didhe tell you that I would have uttered that cry and died at thattable but for one thing, I had promised her to live?""Not he; he told me nothing so incredible. Besides, what became ofyou all these years? You are a double traitor, to your country andto her."Camille literally gasped for breath. "You are a most cruel younglady to insult me so," said he, and scalding tears forced themselvesfrom his eyes.Rose eyed him with merciless scorn.
He fought manfully against this weakness, with which his wound andhis fatigue had something to do, as well as Rose's bitter words; andafter a gallant struggle he returned her her haughty stare, andaddressed her thus: "Mademoiselle, I feel myself blush, but it isfor you I blush, not for myself. This is what BECAME of me. I wentout alone to explore; I fell into an ambuscade; I shot one of theenemy, and pinked another, but my arm being broken by a bullet, andmy horse killed under me, the rascals got me. They took me about,tried to make a decoy of me as I have told you, and ended bythrowing me into a dungeon. They loaded me with chains, too, thoughthe walls were ten feet thick, and the door iron, and bolted anddouble-bolted outside. And there for months and years, in spite ofwounds, hunger, thirst, and all the tortures those cowards made mesuffer, I lived, because, Rose, I had promised some one at that gatethere (and he turned suddenly and pointed to it) that I would comeback alive. At last, one night, my jailer came to my cell drunk. Iseized him by the throat and throttled him till he was insensible;his keys unlocked my fetters, and locked him in the cell, and I gotsafely outside. But there a sentinel saw me, and fired at me. Hemissed me but ran after me, and caught me. You see I was stiff,confined so long. He gave me a thrust of his bayonet; I flung myheavy keys fiercely in his face; he staggered; I wrested his piecefrom him, and disabled him.""Ah!""I crossed the frontier in the night, and got to Bayonne; andthence, day and night, to Paris. There I met a reward for all myanguish. They gave me the epaulets of a colonel. See, here theyare. France does not give these to traitors, young lady." He heldthem out to her in both hands. She eyed them half stupidly; all herthoughts were on the oak-tree hard by. She began to shudder.Camille was telling the truth. She felt that; she saw it; andJosephine was hearing it. "Ay! look at them, you naughty girl,"said Camille, trying to be jocose over it all with his poortrembling lip. He went on to say that from the moment he had leftdark Spain, and entered fair France everybody was so kind, sosympathizing. "They felt for the poor worn soldier coming back tohis love. All but you, Rose. You told me I was a traitor to herand to France.""I was told so," said Rose, faintly. She was almost at her wits'
end what to say or do."Well, are you sorry or not sorry for saying such a cruel thing to apoor fellow?""Sorry, very sorry," whispered Rose. She could not persist ininjustice, yet she did not want Josephine to hear.
"Then say no more about it; there's my hand. You are not a soldier,and did not know what you were talking about.""I am very sorry I spoke so harshly to you. But you understand.How you look; how you pant.""There, I will show you I forgive you. These epaulets, dear, I havenever put them on. I said, no; Josephine shall put them on for me.
I will take honor as well as happiness from her dear hand. But youare her sister, and what are epaulets compared with what she willgive me? You shall put them on, dear. Come, then you will be sureI bear no malice."Rose, faint at heart, consented in silence, and fastened on theepaulets. "Yes, Camille!" she cried, with sudden terror, "think ofglory, now; nothing but glory.""No one thinks of it more. But to-day how can I think of it, howcan I give her a rival? To-day I am all love. Rose, no man everloved a human creature as I love Josephine. Your mother is well,dear? All are well at Beaurepaire? Oh, where is she all this time?in the house?" He was moving quickly towards the house; but Roseinstinctively put out her hand to stop him. He recoiled a littleand winced."What is the matter?" cried she."Nothing, dear girl; you put your hand on my wound, that is all.
What is that noise in the tree? Anybody listening to us?""I'll see," said Rose, with all a woman's wit, and whipped hastilyround to hinder Camille from going. She found Josephine white asdeath, apparently fainting, and clutching at the tree convulsivelywith her nails. Such was the intensity of the situation that sheleft her beloved sister in that piteous state, and even hoped shewould faint dead away, and so hear no more. She came back white,and told Camille it was only a bird got into the tree. "And tothink you should be wounded," said she, to divert his attention fromthe tree."Yes," said he, "and it is rather inflamed, and has worried me allthe way. You need not go telling Josephine, though. They wanted meto stop and lay up at Bayonne. How could I? And again at Paris.
How could I? They said, 'You will die.'--'Not before I get toBeaurepaire,' said I. I could bear the motion of a horse no longer,so at the nearest town I asked for a carriage. Would you believeit? both his carriages were OUT AT A WEDDING. I could not wait tillthey came back. I had waited an eternity. I came on foot. Idragged my self along; the body was weak, but the heart was strong.A little way from here my wound seemed inclined to open. I pressedit together tight with my hand; you see I could not afford to loseany more blood, and so struggled on. 'Die?' said I, 'not beforeBeaurepaire.' And, O Rose! now I could be content to die--at herfeet; for I am happy. Oh! I am happy beyond words to utter. What Ihave gone through! But I kept my word, and this is Beaurepaire.
Hurrah!" and his pale cheek flushed, and his eye gleamed, and hewaved his hat feebly over his head, "hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!""Oh, don't!--don't!--don't!" cried Rose wild with pity and dismay."How can I help?--I am mad with joy--hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!""No! no! no! no! no!""What is the matter?""And must I stab you worse than all your enemies have stabbed you?"sighed Rose, and tears of womanly pity now streamed down her cheeks.