"We're not going to adopt her or bind ourselves. My wife took the child's partron coin price predictiont and plead with me in her behalf, though I could see the young one almost made her sick. She thinks it's her duty, you know, and that's enough for her."
"Rose," said the old lady, speaking very gently but firmly, andleaning in a peculiar way on her words, while her eye worked like anice gimlet on her daughter's face, "a little while ago, when my poorRaynal--our benefactor--was alive--and I was happy--you all chilledmy happiness by your gloom: the whole house seemed a house ofmourning--tell me now why was this.""Mamma!" said Rose, after a moment's hesitation, "we could hardly begay. Sickness in the house! And if Colonel Raynal was alive, stillhe was absent, and in danger.""Oh! then it was out of regard for him we were all dispirited?""Why, I suppose so," said Rose, stoutly; but then colored high ather own want of candor. However, she congratulated herself that hermother's suspicion was confined to past events.ethereum address hashHer self-congratulation on that score was short; for the baroness,after eying her grimly for a second or two in silence, put her thisawkward question plump.
"If so, tell me why is it that ever since that black day when thenews of his DEATH reached us, the whole house has gone into black,and has gone out of mourning?""Mamma," stammered Rose, "what DO you mean?""Even poor Camille, who was so pale and wan, has recovered likemagic.""O mamma! is not that fancy?" said Rose, piteously. "Of what do yoususpect me? Can you think I am unfeeling--ungrateful? I should notbe YOUR daughter.""No, no," said the baroness, "to do you justice, you attempt sorrow;as you put on black. But, my poor child, you do it with so littleskill that one sees a horrible gayety breaking through that thindisguise: you are no true mourners: you are like the mutes or theundertakers at a funeral, forced grief on the surface of your faces,and frightful complacency below.""Tra la! lal! la! la! Tra la! la! Tra la! la!" carolled Jacintha,in the colonel's room hard by.The ladies looked at one another: Rose in great confusion."Tra la! la! la! Tra lal! lal! la! la! la!""Jacintha!" screamed Rose angrily."Hush! not a word," said the baroness. "Why remonstrate with HER?Servants are but chameleons: they take the color of those theyserve. Do not cry. I wanted your confidence, not your tears, love.
There, I will not twice in one day ask you for your heart: it wouldbe to lower the mother, and give the daughter the pain of refusingit, and the regret, sure to come one day, of having refused it. Iwill discover the meaning of it all by myself." She went away witha gentle sigh; and Rose was cut to the heart by her words; sheresolved, whatever it might cost her and Josephine, to make a cleanbreast this very day. As she was one of those who act promptly, shewent instantly in search of her sister, to gain her consent, ifpossible.Now, the said Josephine was in the garden walking with Camille, anduttering a wife's tender solicitudes.The doctor looked. "All the better," said he firmly. "I thought hewas dead. His blood flows; then I will save him. Don't clutch meso, Josephine; don't cling to me like that. Now is the time to showyour breed: not turn sick at the sight of a little blood, like thatfoolish creature, but help me save him.""Take him in-doors," cried the baroness.
"Into our house, mamma?" gasped Rose; "no, no.""What," said the baroness, "a wounded soldier who has fought forFrance! leave him to lie and die outside my door: what would my sonsay to that? He is a soldier himself."Rose cast a hasty look at Josephine. Josephine's eyes were bent onthe ground, and her hands clenched and trembling."Now, Jacintha, you be off," said the doctor. "I can't have cowardsabout him to make the others as bad. Go and stew down a piece ofgood beef for him. Stew it in red wine and water.""That I will: poor thing!""Why, I know him," said the baroness suddenly; "it is an oldacquaintance, young Dujardin: you remember, Josephine. I used tosuspect him of a fancy for you, poor fellow! Why, he must have comehere to see us, poor soul.""No matter who it is; it is a man. Now, girls, have you courage,have you humanity? Then come one on each side of him and take handsbeneath his back, while I lift his head and Dard his legs.""And handle him gently whatever you do," said Dard. "I know what itis to be wounded."These four carried the lifeless burden very slowly and gently acrossthe Pleasaunce to the house, then with more difficulty and cautionup the stairs.All the while the sisters' hands griped one another tight beneaththe lifeless burden, and spoke to one another. And Josephine's armupheld tenderly but not weakly the hero she had struck down. Sheavoided Rose's eye, her mother's, and even the doctor's: one gaspingsob escaped her as she walked with head half averted, and vacant,terror-stricken eyes, and her victim on her sustaining arm.The doctor selected the tapestried chamber for him as being mostairy. Then he ordered the women out, and with Dard's help undressedthe still insensible patient.
Josephine sat down on the stairs in gloomy silence, her eyes on theground, like one waiting for her deathblow.Rose, sick at heart, sat silent too at some distance. At last shesaid faintly, "Have we done well?""I don't know," said Josephine doggedly. Her eyes never left theground.
"We could not let him die for want of care.""He will not thank us. Better for him to die than live. Better forme."At this instant Dard came running down. "Good news, mesdemoiselles,good news! the wound runs all along; it is not deep, like mine was.He has opened his eyes and shut them again. The dear good doctorstopped the blood in a twinkle. The doctor says he'll be bound tosave him. I must run and tell Jacintha. She is taking on in thekitchen."Josephine, who had risen eagerly from her despairing posture,clasped her hands together, then lifted up her voice and wept. "Hewill live! he will live!"When she had wept a long while, she said to Rose, "Come, sister,help your poor Josephine.""Yes, love, what shall we do?""My duty," faltered Josephine. "An hour ago it seemed so sweet,"and she fell to weeping patiently again. They went to Josephine'sroom. She crept slowly to a wardrobe, and took out a gray silkdress."Oh, never mind for to-day," cried Rose."Help me, Rose. It is for myself as well; to remind me every momentI am Madame Raynal."They put the gray gown on her, both weeping patiently. It will beknown at the last day, all that honest women have suffered weepingsilently in this noisy world.
Camille soon recovered his senses and a portion of his strength:then the irritation of his wound brought on fever. This in turnretired before the doctor's remedies and a sound constitution, butit left behind it a great weakness and general prostration. And inthis state the fate of the body depends greatly on the mind.The baroness and the doctor went constantly to see him, and soothehim: he smiled and thanked them, but his eager eyes watched the doorfor one who came not.When he got well enough to leave his bed the largest couch was sentup to him from the saloon; a kind hand lined the baron's silkdressing-gown for him warm and soft and nice; and he would sit orlie on his couch, or take two turns in the room leaning upon Rose'sshoulder, and glad of the support; and he looked piteously in hereyes when she came and when she went. Rose looked down; she coulddo nothing, she could say nothing.
With his strength, Camille lost a portion of his pride: he pined fora sight of her he no longer respected; pined for her, as the thirstypine for water in Sahara.At last one day he spoke out. "How kind you are to me, Rose! howkind you all are--but one."He waited in hopes she would say something, but she held her tongue.
"At least tell me why it is. Is she ashamed? Is she afraid?""Neither.""She hates me: it is true, then, that we hate those whom we havewounded. Cruel, cruel Josephine! Oh, heart of marble against whichmy heart has wrecked itself forever!""No, no! She is anything but cruel: but she is Madame Raynal.""Ah! I forgot. But have I no claim on her? Nearly four years shehas been my betrothed. What have I done? Was I ever false to her?I could forgive her for what she has done to me, but she cannotforgive me. Does she mean never to see me again?""Ask yourself what good could come of it.""Very well," said Camille, with a malicious smile. "I am in herway. I see what she wants; she shall have it."Rose carried these words to Josephine. They went through her like asword.
Rose pitied her. Rose had a moment's weakness."Let us go to him," she said; "anything is better than this.""Rose, I dare not," was the wise reply.But the next day early, Josephine took Rose to a door outside thehouse, a door that had long been disused. Nettles grew before it.She produced a key and with great difficulty opened this door. Itled to the tapestried chamber, and years ago they used to steal upit and peep into the room.Rose scarcely needed to be told that she was to watch Camille, andreport to her. In truth, it was a mysterious, vague protectionagainst a danger equally mysterious. Yet it made Josephine easier.But so unflinching was her prudence that she never once could beprevailed on to mount those stairs, and peep at Camille herself. "Imust starve my heart, not feed it," said she. And she grew palerand more hollow-eyed day by day.
Yet this was the same woman who showed such feebleness andirresolution when Raynal pressed her to marry him. But then dwarfsfeebly drew her this way and that. Now giants fought for her.Between a feeble inclination and a feeble disinclination her deadheart had drifted to and fro. Now honor, duty, gratitude,--whichlast with her was a passion,--dragged her one way: love, pity, andremorse another.
Not one of these giants would relax his grasp, and nothing yieldedexcept her vital powers. Yes; her temper, one of the loveliestHeaven ever gave a human creature, was soured at times.Was it a wonder? There lay the man she loved pining for her;cursing her for her cruelty, and alternately praying Heaven toforgive him and to bless her: sighing, at intervals, all the daylong, so loud, so deep, so piteously, as if his heart broke witheach sigh; and sometimes, for he little knew, poor soul, that anyhuman eye was upon him, casting aside his manhood in his despair,and flinging himself on the very floor, and muffling his head, andsobbing; he a hero.
And here was she pining in secret for him who pined for her? "I amnot a woman at all," said she, who was all woman. "I am crueller tohim than a tiger or any savage creature is to the victim she tears.I must cure him of his love for me; and then die; for what shall Ihave to live for? He weeps, he sighs, he cries for Josephine."Her enforced cruelty was more contrary to this woman's nature thanblack is to white, or heat to cold, and the heart rebelled furiouslyat times. As when a rock tries to stem a current, the water fightsits way on more sides than one, so insulted nature dealt withJosephine. Not only did her body pine, but her nerves wereexasperated. Sudden twitches came over her, that almost made herscream. Her permanent state was utter despondency, but across itcame fitful flashes of irritation; and then she was scarce mistressof herself.
Wherefore you, who find some holy woman cross and bitter, stop amoment before you sum her up vixen and her religion naught: inquirethe history of her heart: perhaps beneath the smooth cold surface ofduties well discharged, her life has been, or even is, a battleagainst some self-indulgence the insignificant saint's very bloodcries out for: and so the poor thing is cross, not because she isbad, but because she is better than the rest of us; yet only human.Now though Josephine was more on her guard with the baroness thanwith Rose, or the doctor, or Jacintha, her state could notaltogether escape the vigilance of a mother's eye.But the baroness had not the clew we have; and what a differencethat makes! How small an understanding, put by accident orinstruction on the right track, shall run the game down! How greata sagacity shall wander if it gets on a false scent!"Doctor," said the baroness one day, "you are so taken up with yourpatient you neglect the rest of us. Do look at Josephine! She isill, or going to be ill. She is so pale, and so fretful, sopeevish, which is not in her nature. Would you believe it, doctor,she snaps?""Our Josephine snap? This is new.""And snarls.""Then look for the end of the world.""The other day I heard her snap Rose: and this morning she halfsnarled at me, just because I pressed her to go and console ourpatient. Hush! here she is. My child, I am accusing you to thedoctor. I tell him you neglect his patient: never go near him.""I will visit him one of these days," said Josephine, coldly.
"One of these days," said the baroness, shocked. "You used not tobe so hard-hearted. A soldier, an old comrade of your husband's,wounded and sick, and you alone never go to him, to console him witha word of sympathy or encouragement."Josephine looked at her mother with a sort of incredulous stare.Then, after a struggle, she replied with a tone and manner sospiteful and icy that it would have deceived even us who know herhad we heard it. "He has plenty of nurses without me." She added,almost violently, "My husband, if he were wounded, would not have somany, perhaps not have one."With this she rose and went out, leaving them aghast. She sat downin the passage on a window-seat, and laughed hysterically. Roseheard her and ran to her. Josephine told her what her mother hadsaid to her. Rose soothed her. "Never mind, you have your sisterwho understands you: don't you go back till they have got some othertopic."Rose out of curiosity went in, and found a discussion going on. Thedoctor was fathoming Josephine, for the benefit of his companion.
"It is a female jealousy, and of a mighty innocent kind. We are sotaken up with this poor fellow, she thinks her soldier is forgotten.""Surely, doctor, our Josephine would not be so unreasonable, sounjust," suggested her mother."She belongs to a sex, be it said without offending you, madame,among whose numberless virtues justice does not fill a prominentplace."The baroness shook her head. "That is not it. It is a piece ofprudery. This young gentleman was a sort of admirer of hers, thoughshe did not admire him much, as far as I remember. But it was fouryears ago; and she is married to a man she loves, or is going tolove.""Well, but, mamma, a trifling excess of delicacy is surelyexcusable." This from Rose.
"No, no; it is not delicacy; it is prudery. And when people aresick and suffering, an honest woman should take up her charity andlay down her prudery, or her coquetry: two things that I suspect arethe same thing in different shapes."Here Jacintha came in. "Mademoiselle, here is the colonel's broth;Madame Raynal has flavored it for him, and you are to take it up tohim, and keep him company while he eats it.""Come," cried the baroness, "my lecture has not been lost."Rose followed Jacintha up-stairs.Rose was heart and head on Raynal's side.
She had deceived him about Josephine's attachment, and felt all themore desirous to guard him against any ill consequences of it. Thenhe had been so generous to her: he had left her her sister, whowould have gone to Egypt, and escaped this misery, but for her.But on the other hand,--Gentle pityTugged at her heartstrings with complaining cries.This watching of Camille saddened even her. When she was with himhis pride bore him up: but when he was alone as he thought, hisanguish and despair were terrible, and broke out in so many waysthat often Rose shrank in terror from her peep hole.She dared not tell Josephine the half of what she saw: what she didtell her agitated her so terribly: and often Rose had it on the tipof her tongue to say, "Do pray go and see if you can say nothingthat will do him good;" but she fought the impulse down. Thisbattle of feeling, though less severe than her sister's, wasconstant; it destroyed her gayety. She, whose merry laugh used toring like chimes through the house, never laughed now, seldomsmiled, and often sighed.
Dr. Aubertin was the last to succumb to the deep depression, but histime came: and he had been for a day or two as grave and as sad asthe rest, when one day that Rose was absent, spying on Camille, hetook the baroness and Josephine into his confidence; andcondescended finally to ask their advice."It is humiliating," said he, "after all my experience, to beobliged to consult unprofessional persons. Forty years ago I shouldhave been TOO WISE to do so. But since then I have often seenscience baffled and untrained intelligences throw light upon hardquestions: and your sex in particular has luminous instincts andreads things by flashes that we men miss with a microscope. Ourdear Madame Raynal suspected that plausible notary, and to this dayI believe she could not tell us why."Josephine admitted as much very frankly.
"There you see," said the doctor. "Well, then, you must help me inthis case. And this time I promise to treat your art with morerespect.""And pray who is it she is to read now?" asked the baroness."Who should it be but my poor patient? He puzzles me. I never knewa patient so faint-hearted.""A soldier faint-hearted!" exclaimed the baroness. "To be surethese men that storm cities, and fire cannon, and cut and hack oneanother with so much spirit, are poor creatures compared with uswhen they have to lie quiet and suffer."The doctor walked the room in great excitement. "It is not hiswound that is killing him, there's something on his mind. You,Josephine, with your instincts do help me: do pray, for pity's sake,throw off that sublime indifference you have manifested all along tothis man's fate.""She has not," cried the baroness, firing up. "Did I not see herlining his dressing-gown for him? and she inspects everything thathe eats: do you not?""Yes, mother." She then suggested in a faltering voice that timewould cure the patient, and time alone.
"Time! you speak as if time was a quality: time is only a measure ofevents, favorable or unfavorable; it kills as many as it cures.""Why, you surely would not imply his life is in any danger?" Thiswas the baroness."Madame, if the case was not grave, should I take this unusual step?