"Well, I know how a man feels when there is a woman so well worth standing up for. It was a lucky thing that I htheta laser gmbhad nothing heavier in my hand than that hickory." All the while he was looking at her curiously; then he spoke his thought. "You're a quiet little woman, Alida, most times, but you're capable of a thunder gust now and then."
"What! Wilcan i buy bitcoin from coinbase in indial you compel me to chastise you?""Well, then, I'll tell him it was all your doin's."
"I shall tell him so myself. I shall remonstrate with him. The idea of his coming home alone at this time of night with an unknown female!""One would think you was his aunt, to hear you talk," remarked the girl sullenly."I am a respecterble woman and most respecterbly connected. My character and antercedents render me irrerproachful.--This could not be said of a hussy, and a hussy he'll probably bring--some flighty, immerture female that will tax even MY patience to train."Another hour passed, and the frown on Mrs. Mumpson's brow grew positively awful. "To think," she muttered, "that a man whom I have deemed it my duty to marry should stay out so and under such peculiar circumstances. He must have a lesson which he can never forget." Then aloud, to Jane, "Kindle a fire on the parlor hearth and let this fire go out. He must find us in the most respecterble room in the house--a room befitting my station.""I declare, mother, you aint got no sense at all!" exclaimed the child, exasperated beyond measure.
"I'll teach you to use such unrerspectful language!" cried Mrs. Mumpson, darting from her chair like a hawk and pouncing upon the unhappy child.With ears tingling from a cuffing she could not soon forget, Jane lighted the parlor fire and sat down sniffling in the farthest corner."Come, come, don't overdo it," said he. "Well, well; they cannotprofit by your liberality; but you will be rewarded in a betterworld, take my word for that."The notary muttered indistinctly. He was a man of moderate desires;would have been quite content if there had been no other world inperspective. He had studied this one, and made it pay: did notdesire a better; sometimes feared a worse.
"Ah!" said Aubertin, "I see how it is; we do not like to hearourselves praised, do we? When shall we see you at the chateau?""I propose to call on the baroness the moment I have good news tobring," replied Perrin; and to avoid any more compliments spurredthe dun pony suddenly; and he waddled away.Now this Perrin was at that moment on the way to dine with acharacter who plays a considerable part in the tale--CommandantRaynal. Perrin had made himself useful to the commandant, and hadbecome his legal adviser. And, this very day after dinner, thecommandant having done a good day's work permitted himself a littlesentiment over the bottle, and to a man he thought his friend. Helet out that he had a heap of money he did not know what to do with,and almost hated it now his mother was gone and could not share it.The man of law consoled him with oleaginous phrases: told him hevery much underrated the power of money. His hoard, directed by ajudicious adviser, would make him a landed proprietor, and thehusband of some young lady, all beauty, virtue, and accomplishment,whose soothing influence would soon heal the sorrow caused by anexcess of filial sentiment."Halt!" shouted Raynal: "say that again in half the words."Perrin was nettled, for he prided himself on his colloquial style.
"You can buy a fine estate and a chaste wife with the money,"snapped this smooth personage, substituting curt brutality forhoneyed prolixity.The soldier was struck by the propositions the moment they flew athim small and solid, like bullets.
"I've no time," said he, "to be running after women. But the estateI'll certainly have, because you can get that for me without mytroubling my head.""Is it a commission, then?" asked the other sharply."Of course. Do you think I speak for the sake of talking?"And so Perrin received formal instructions to look out for a landedestate; and he was to receive a handsome commission as agent.Now to settle this affair, and pocket a handsome percentage forhimself, he had only to say "Beaurepaire."Well, he didn't. Never mentioned the place; nor the fact that itwas for sale.Such are all our agents, when rival speculators. Mind that. Stillit is a terrible thing to be so completely in the power of any manof the world, as from this hour Beaurepaire was in the power ofPerrin the notary.
Chapter 4Edouard Riviere was unhappy. She never came out now. This alonemade the days dark to him. And then he began to fear it was him sheshunned. She must have seen him lie in wait for her; and so shewould come out no more. He prowled about and contrived to fall inwith Jacintha; he told her his grief. She assured him the simplefact was their mourning was worn out, and they were ashamed to goabroad in colors. This revelation made his heart yearn still more."O Jacintha," said he, "if I could only make a beginning; but herewe might live a century in the same parish, and not one chance for apoor wretch to make acquaintance."Jacintha admitted this, and said gentlefolks were to be pitied."Why, if it was the likes of me, you and I should have made friendslong before now."Jacintha herself was puzzled what to do; she would have told Rose ifshe had felt sure it would be well received; but she could not findout that the young lady had even noticed the existence of Edouard.
But her brain worked, and lay in wait for an opportunity.One came sooner than she expected. One morning at about sixo'clock, as she came home from milking the cow, she caught sight ofyoung Riviere trying to open the iron gate. "What is up now?"thought she; suddenly the truth flashed upon her, clear as day. Sheput her pail down and stole upon him. "You want to leave us anotherpurse," said she. He colored all over and panted.
"How did you know? how could you know? you won't betray me? youwon't be so cruel? you promised.""Me betray you," said Jacintha; "why, I'll help you; and then theywill be able to buy mourning, you know, and then they will come out,and give you a chance. You can't open that gate, for it's locked.But you come round to the lane, and I'll get you the key; it ishanging up in the kitchen."The key was in her pocket. But the sly jade wanted him away fromthat gate; it commanded a view of the Pleasaunce. He was no soonersafe in the lane, than she tore up-stairs to her young ladies, andasked them with affected calm whether they would like to know wholeft the purse.
"Oh, yes, yes!" screamed Rose."Then come with me. You ARE dressed; never mind your bonnets, oryou will be too late."Questions poured on her; but she waived all explanation, and did notgive them time to think, or Josephine, for one, she knew would raiseobjections. She led the way to the Pleasaunce, and, when she got tothe ancestral oak, she said hurriedly, "Now, mesdemoiselles, hide inthere, and as still as mice. You'll soon know who leaves the purses."With this she scudded to the lane, and gave Edouard the key. "Looksharp," said she, "before they get up; it's almost their dressingtime.""YOU'LL SOON KNOW WHO LEAVES THE PURSES!"Curiosity, delicious curiosity, thrilled our two daughters of Eve.This soon began to alternate with chill misgivings at the novelty ofthe situation."She is not coming back," said Josephine ruefully."No," said Rose, "and suppose when we pounce out on him, it shouldbe a stranger.""Pounce on him? surely we are not to do that?""Oh, y-yes; that is the p-p-programme," quavered Rose.A key grated, and the iron gate creaked on its hinges. They rantogether and pinched one another for mutual support, but did notdare to speak.
Presently a man's shadow came slap into the tree. They crouched andquivered, and expected to be caught instead of catching, and wishedthemselves safe back in bed, and all this a nightmare, and no worse.At last they recovered themselves enough to observe that thisshadow, one half of which lay on the ground, while the head andshoulders went a little way up the wall of the tree, represented aman's profile, not his front face. The figure, in short, wasstanding between them and the sun, and was contemplating thechateau, not the tree.
The shadow took off its hat to Josephine, in the tree. Then wouldshe have screamed if she had not bitten her white hand instead, andmade a red mark thereon.It wiped its brow with a handkerchief; it had walked fast, poorthing! The next moment it was away.
They looked at one another and panted. They scarcely dared do itbefore. Then Rose, with one hand on her heaving bosom, shook herlittle white fist viciously at where the figure must be, and perhapsa comical desire of vengeance stimulated her curiosity. She nowglided through the fissure like a cautious panther from her den; andnoiseless and supple as a serpent began to wind slowly round thetree. She soon came to a great protuberance in the tree, andtwining and peering round it with diamond eye, she saw a very young,very handsome gentleman, stealing on tiptoe to the nearest flower-bed. Then she saw him take a purse out of his bosom, and drop it onthe bed. This done, he came slowly past the tree again, and waseven heard to vent a little innocent chuckle of intense satisfaction:but of brief duration; for, when Rose saw the purse leave his hand,she made a rapid signal to Josephine to wheel round the other sideof the tree, and, starting together with admirable concert, boththe daughters of Beaurepaire glided into sight with a vast appearanceof composure.
Two women together are really braver than fifteen separate; butstill, most of this tranquillity was merely put on, but so admirablythat Edouard Riviere had no chance with them. He knew nothing abouttheir tremors; all he saw or heard was, a rustle, then a flap oneach side of him as of great wings, and two lovely women were uponhim with angelic swiftness. "Ah!" he cried out with a start, andglanced from the first-comer, Rose, to the gate. But Josephine wason that side by this time, and put up her hand, as much as to say,"You can't pass here." In such situations, the mind works quickerthan lightning. He took off his hat, and stammered an excuse--"Cometo look at the oak." At this moment Rose pounced on the purse, andheld it up to Josephine. He was caught. His only chance now was tobolt for the mark and run; but it was not the notary, it was anovice who lost his presence of mind, or perhaps thought it rude torun when a lady told him to stand still. All he did was to crushhis face into his two hands, round which his cheeks and neck nowblushed red as blood. Blush? they could both see the color rushlike a wave to the very roots of his hair and the tips of hisfingers.The moment our heroines, who, in that desperation which is one ofthe forms of cowardice, had hurled themselves on the foe, saw this,flash--the quick-witted poltroons exchanged purple lightning overEdouard's drooping head, and enacted lionesses in a moment.It was with the quiet composure of lofty and powerful natures thatJosephine opened on him. "Compose yourself, sir; and be so good asto tell us who you are." Edouard must answer. Now he could notspeak through his hands; and he could not face a brace of tranquillionesses: so he took a middle course, removed one hand, and shadinghimself from Josephine with the other, he gasped out, "I am--my nameis Riviere; and I--I--ladies!""I am afraid we frighten you," said Josephine, demurely."Don't be frightened," said Rose, majestically; "we are not VERYangry, only a LITTLE curious to know why you water our flowers withgold."At this point-blank thrust, and from her, Edouard was so confoundedand distressed, they both began to pity him. He stammered out thathe was so confused he did not know what to say. He couldn't thinkhow ever he could have taken such a liberty; might he be permittedto retire? and with this he tried to slip away.
"Let me detain you one instant," said Josephine, and made for thehouse.Left alone so suddenly with the culprit, the dignity, and majesty,and valor of Rose seemed to ooze gently out; and she stood blushing,and had not a word to say; no more had Edouard. But he hung hishead, and she hung her head. And, somehow or other, whenever sheraised her eyes to glance at him, he raised his to steal a look ather, and mutual discomfiture resulted.
This awkward, embarrassing delirium was interrupted by Josephine'sreturn. She now held another purse in her hand, and quietly pouredthe rest of the coin into it. She then, with a blush, requested himto take back the money.At that he found his tongue. "No, no," he cried, and put up hishands in supplication. "Ladies, do let me speak ONE word to you.
Do not reject my friendship. You are alone in the world; yourfather is dead; your mother has but you to lean on. After all, I amyour neighbor, and neighbors should be friends. And I am yourdebtor; I owe you more than you could ever owe me; for ever since Icame into this neighborhood I have been happy. No man was ever sohappy as I, ever since one day I was walking, and met for the firsttime an angel. I don't say it was you, Mademoiselle Rose. It mightbe Mademoiselle Josephine.""How pat he has got our names," said Rose, smiling."A look from that angel has made me so good, so happy. I used tovegetate, but now I live. Live! I walk on wings, and tread onroses. Yet you insist on declining a few miserable louis d'or fromhim who owes you so much. Well, don't be angry; I'll take themback, and throw them into the nearest pond, for they are really nouse to me. But then you will be generous in your turn. You willaccept my devotion, my services. You have no brother, you know;well, I have no sisters; let me be your brother, and your servantforever."At all this, delivered in as many little earnest pants as there weresentences, the water stood in the fair eyes he was looking into sopiteously.
Josephine was firm, but angelical. "We thank you, MonsieurRiviere," said she, softly, "for showing us that the world is stillembellished with hearts like yours. Here is the money;" and sheheld it out in her creamy hand."But we are very grateful," put in Rose, softly and earnestly."That we are," said Josephine, "and we beg to keep the purse as asouvenir of one who tried to do us a kindness without mortifying us.And now, Monsieur Riviere, you will permit us to bid you adieu."Edouard was obliged to take the hint. "It is I who am theintruder," said he. "Mesdemoiselles, conceive, if you can, my prideand my disappointment." He then bowed low; they courtesied low tohim in return; and he retired slowly in a state of mixed feelingindescribable.
With all their sweetness and graciousness, he felt overpowered bytheir high breeding, their reserve, and their composure, in asituation that had set his heart beating itself nearly out of hisbosom. He acted the scene over again, only much more adroitly, andconcocted speeches for past use, and was very hot and very cold byturns.I wish he could have heard what passed between the sisters as soonas ever he was out of earshot. It would have opened his eyes, andgiven him a little peep into what certain writers call "the sex.""Poor boy," murmured Josephine, "he has gone away unhappy.""Oh, I dare say he hasn't gone far," replied Rose, gayly. "Ishouldn't if I was a boy."Josephine held up her finger like an elder sister; then went on tosay she really hardly knew why she had dismissed him.
"Well, dear," said Rose, dryly, "since you admit so much, I must sayI couldn't help thinking--while you were doing it--we were letting'the poor boy' off ridiculously cheap.""At least I did my duty?" suggested Josephine, inquiringly."Magnificently; you overawed even me. So now to business, as thegentlemen say. Which of us two takes him?""Takes whom?" inquired Josephine, opening her lovely eyes.
"Edouard," murmured Rose, lowering hers.Josephine glared on the lovely minx with wonder and comical horror.