Jane was given the room over the kitchen which Mrs. Wiggins had occupied, and the farmhouse soon adopted her into its quiet routine. Holcroft's cethereum price xrpourse continued to cause Alida a dissatisfaction which she could scarcely define. He was as kind as ever he had been and even more considerate; he not only gratified her wishes, but tried to anticipate them, while Jane's complete subserviency proved that she had been spoken to very plainly.
Horrible silence.solana beach explorerWith nerves strung to frenzy, and quivering ears, that magnifiedevery sound, she waited for a reproach, a curse; either would havebeen some little relief. But no! a silence far more terrible.
Then a step wavered across the room. Her soul was in her ear. Shecould hear and feel the step totter, and it shook her as it went.All sounds were trebled to her. Then it struck on the stone step ofthe staircase, not like a step, but a knell; another step, anotherand another; down to the very bottom. Each slow step made her headring and her heart freeze.At last she heard no more. Then a scream of anguish and recall roseto her lips. She fought it down, for Josephine and Raynal. Edouardwas gone. She had but her sister now, the sister she loved betterthan herself; the sister to save whose life and honor she had thismoment sacrificed her own, and all a woman lives for.She turned, with a wild cry of love and pity, to that sister's sideto help her; and when she kneeled down beside her, an iron arm waspromptly thrust out between the beloved one and her."This is my care, madame," said Raynal, coldly.
There was no mistaking his manner. The stained one was not to touchhis wife.She looked at him in piteous amazement at his ingratitude. "It iswell," said she. "It is just. I deserve this from you."She said no more, but drooped gently down beside the cradle, and hidher forehead in the clothes beside the child that had brought allthis woe, and sobbed bitterly.Mademoiselle,--Before I could find time to write to our referee,news came in that he had just broken his arm;--"Oh! oh, dear! our poor Edouard!"And if poor Edouard had seen the pale faces, and heard the falteringaccents, it would have reconciled him to his broken arm almost.
This hand-grenade the commandant had dropped so coolly among them,it was a long while ere they could recover from it enough to readthe rest of the letter,--so I rode over to him, and found him on his back, fretting for wantof something to do. I told him the whole story. He undertook thebusiness. I have received his instructions, and next week shall beat his quarters to clear off his arrears of business, and makeacquaintance with all your family, if they permit.RAYNAL.As the latter part of this letter seemed to require a reply, thebaroness wrote a polite note, and Jacintha sent Dard to leave it forthe commandant at Riviere's lodgings. But first they all sat downand wrote kind and pitying and soothing letters to Edouard. Need Isay these letters fell upon him like balm?They all inquired carelessly in their postscripts what he haddecided as their referee. He replied mysteriously that they wouldknow that in a week or two. Meantime, all he thought it prudent totell them was that he had endeavored to be just to both parties.
"Little solemn puppy," said Rose, and was racked with curiosity.Next week Raynal called on the baroness. She received him alone.
They talked about Madame Raynal. The next day he dined with thewhole party, and the commandant's manners were the opposite of whatthe baroness had inculcated. But she had a strong prejudice in hisfavor. Had her feelings been the other way his brusquerie wouldhave shocked her. It amused her. If people's hearts are with you,THAT for their heads!He came every day for a week, chatted with the baroness, walked withthe young ladies; and when after work he came over in the evening,Rose used to cross-examine him, and out came such descriptions ofbattles and sieges, such heroism and such simplicity mixed, as madethe evening pass delightfully. On these occasions the young ladiesfixed their glowing eyes on him, and drank in his character as wellas his narrative, in which were fewer "I's" than in anything of thesort you ever read or heard.At length Rose contrived to draw him aside, and, hiding hercuriosity under feigned nonchalance, asked him what the referee haddecided. He told her that was a secret for the present."Well, but," said Rose, "not from me. Edouard and I have nosecrets.""Come, that's good," said Raynal. "Why, you are the very one hewarned me against the most; said you were as curious as Mother Eve,and as sharp as her needle.""Then he is a little scurrilous traitor," cried Rose, turning veryred. "So that is how he talks of me behind my back, and calls me anangel to my face; I'll pay him for this. Do tell me, commandant;never mind what HE says.""What! disobey orders?""Orders? to you from that boy!""Oh!" said Raynal, "for that matter, we soldiers are used to commandone moment, and obey the next."In a word, this military pedant was impracticable, and Rose gave himup in disgust, and began to call up a sulky look when the other twosang his praises. For the old lady pronounced him charming, andJosephine said he was a man of crystal; never said a word he did notmean, and she wished she was like him. But the baroness thoughtthis was going a little too far.
"No, thank you," said she hastily; "he is a man, a thorough man. Hewould make an intolerable woman. A fine life if one had a parcel ofwomen about, all blurting out their real minds every moment, andnever smoothing matters.""Mamma, what a horrid picture!" chuckled Rose.She then proposed that at his next visit they should all three makean earnest appeal to him to let them know what Edouard had decided.But Josephine begged to be excused, feared it would be hardlydelicate; and said languidly that for her part she felt they were ingood hands, and prescribed patience. The baroness acquiesced, andpoor Rose and her curiosity were baffled on every side.At last, one fine day, her torments were relieved without anyfurther exertion on her part. Jacintha bounced into the drawing-room with a notice that the commandant wanted to speak to Josephinea minute out in the Pleasaunce.
"How droll he is," said Rose; "fancy sending in for a young ladylike that. Don't go, Josephine; how, he would stare.""My dear, I no more dare disobey him than if I was one of hissoldiers." And she laid down her work, and rose quietly to do whatshe was bid."Well," said Rose, superciliously, "go to your commanding officer.
And, O Josephine, if you are worth anything at all, do get out ofhim what that Edouard has settled."Josephine kissed her, and promised to try. After the firstsalutation, there was a certain hesitation about Raynal whichJosephine had never seen a trace of in him before; so, to put him athis ease, and at the same time keep her promise to Rose, she askedtimidly if their mutual friend had been able to suggest anything."What! don't you know that I have been acting all along upon hisinstructions?" answered Raynal.
"No, indeed! and you have not told us what he advised.""Told you? why, of course not; they were secret instructions. Ihave obeyed one set, and now I come to the other; and there is thedifficulty, being a kind of warfare I know nothing about.""It must be savage warfare, then," suggested the lady politely."Not a bit of it. Now, who would have thought I was such a coward?"Josephine was mystified; however, she made a shrewd guess. "Do youfear a repulse from any one of us? Then, I suppose, you meditatesome extravagant act of generosity.""Not I.""Of delicacy, then.""Just the reverse. Confound the young dog! why is he not here tohelp me?""But, after all," suggested Josephine, "you have only to carry outhis instructions.""That is true! that is true! but when a fellow is a coward, apoltroon, and all that sort of thing."This repeated assertion of cowardice on the part of the livingDamascus blade that stood bolt-upright before her, struck Josephineas so funny that she laughed merrily, and bade him fancy it was onlya fort he was attacking instead of the terrible Josephine; whom nonebut heroes feared, she assured him.This encouragement, uttered in jest, was taken in earnest. Thesoldier thanked her, and rallied visibly at the comparison. "Allright," said he, "as you say, it is only a fort--so--mademoiselle!""Monsieur!""Hum! will you lend me your hand for a moment?""My hand! what for? there," and she put it out an inch a minute. Hetook it, and inspected it closely."A charming hand; the hand of a virtuous woman?""Yes," said Josephine as cool as a cucumber, too sublimely andabsurdly innocent even to blush."Is it your own?""Sir!" She blushed at that, I can tell you."Because if it was, I would ask you to give it me. (I've fired thefirst shot anyway.)"Josephine whipped her hand off his palm, where it lay like creamspilt on a trencher.
"Ah! I see; you are not free: you have a lover.""No, no!" cried Josephine in distress; "I love nobody but my motherand sister: I never shall.""Your mother," cried Raynal; "that reminds me; he told me to askher; by Jove, I think he told me to ask her first;" and Raynal upwith his scabbard and was making off.Josephine begged him to do nothing of the kind.
"I can save you the trouble," said she."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."So you see I am not so mighty disinterested. Now, mademoiselle,you speak so charmingly, I can't tell what you mean: can't tellwhether you say 'no' because you could never like me, or whether itis out of delicacy, and you only want pressing. So I say no more atpresent: it is a standing offer. Take a day to consider. Take twoif you like. I must go to the barracks; good-day.""Oh! this must be put an end to at once," said Rose.
"With all my heart," replied Josephine; "but how?""Come to our mother, and settle that," said the impetuous sister,and nearly dragged the languid one into the drawing-room.To their surprise they found the baroness walking up and down theroom with unusual alacrity for a person of her years. She no soonercaught sight of Josephine than she threw her arms open to her withjoyful vivacity, and kissed her warmly. "My love, you have savedus. I am a happy old woman. If I had all France to pick from Icould not have found a man so worthy of my Josephine. He is brave,he is handsome, he is young, he is a rising man, he is a good son,and good sons make good husbands--and--I shall die at Beaurepaire,shall I not, Madame the Commandante?"Josephine held her mother round the neck, but never spoke. After asilence she held her tighter, and cried a little.
"What is it?" asked the baroness confidentially of Rose, but withoutshowing any very profound concern."Mamma! mamma! she does not love him.""Love him? She would be no daughter of mine if she loved a man atsight. A modest woman loves her husband only.""But she scarcely knows Monsieur Raynal.""She knows more of him than I knew of your father when I marriedhim. She knows his virtues and appreciates them. I have heard her,have I not, love? Esteem soon ripens into love when they are oncefairly married.""Mother, does her silence then tell you nothing? Her tears--arethey nothing to you?""Silly child! These are tears that do not scald. The sweet soulweeps because she now for the first time sees she will have to leaveher mother. Alas! my eldest, it is inevitable. Mothers are notimmortal. While they are here it is their duty to choose goodhusbands for their daughters. My youngest, I believe, has chosenfor herself--like the nation. But for my eldest I choose. We shallsee which chooses the best. Meantime we stay at Beaurepaire, thanksto my treasure here.""Josephine! Josephine! you don't say one word," cried Rose indismay.
"What CAN I say? I love my mother and I love you. You draw medifferent ways. I want you to be both happy.""Then if you will not speak out I must. Mother, do not deceiveyourself: it is duty alone that keeps her silent: this match isodious to her.""Then we are ruined. Josephine, is this match odious to you?""Not exactly odious: but I am very, very indifferent.""There!" cried Rose triumphantly."There!" cried the baroness in the same breath, triumphantly. "Sheesteems his character; but his person is indifferent to her: inother words, she is a modest girl, and my daughter; and let me tellyou, Rose, that but for the misfortunes of our house, both mydaughters would be married as I was, without knowing half as much oftheir husbands as Josephine knows of this brave, honest, generous,filial gentleman.""Well, then, since she will not speak out, I will. Pity me: I loveher so. If this stranger, whom she does not love, takes her awayfrom us, he will kill me. I shall die; oh!"Josephine left her mother and went to console Rose.The baroness lost her temper at this last stroke of opposition."Now the truth comes out, Rose; this is selfishness. Do not deceiveYOURself--selfishness!""Mamma!""You are only waiting to leave me yourself. Yet your eldest sister,forsooth, must be kept here for you,--till then." She added moregently, "Let me advise you to retire to your own room, and examineyour heart fairly. You will find there is a strong dash of egoismin all this.""If I do"--"You will retract your opposition.""My heart won't let me; but I will despise myself, and be silent."And the young lady, who had dried her eyes the moment she wasaccused of selfishness, walked, head erect, from the room.
Josephine cast a deprecating glance at her mother. "Yes, my angel!"said the latter, "I was harsh. But we are no longer of one mind,and I suppose never shall be again.""Oh, yes, we shall. Be patient! Mother--you shall not leaveBeaurepaire."The baroness colored faintly at these four last words of herdaughter, and hung her head.Josephine saw that, and darted to her and covered her with kisses.
That day the doctor scolded them both. "You have put your motherinto a high fever," said he; "here's a pulse; I do wish you would bemore considerate."The commandant did not come to dinner as usual. The evening passedheavily; their hearts were full of uncertainty."We miss our merry, spirited companion," said the baroness with agrim look at Rose. Both young ladies assented with ludicrouseagerness.
That night Rose came and slept with Josephine, and more than onceshe awoke with a start and seized Josephine convulsively and heldher tight.Accused of egoism! at first her whole nature rose in arms againstthe charge: but, after a while, coming as it did from so revered aperson, it forced her to serious self-examination. The poor girlsaid to herself, "Mamma is a shrewd woman. Am I after all deceivingmyself? Would she be happy, and am I standing in the way?" In themorning she begged her sister to walk with her in the park, so thatthey might be safe from interruption.