"Hum!" said he, after a little reflection, "where do these paragonslive?""They lodge at a small farm; it belongs to a widow; her name isRoth." They parted. Dr. Aubertin walked slowly towards hiscarriage, his hands behiethereum price volatilitynd him, his eyes on the ground. He bade thedriver inquire where the Widow Roth lived, and learned it was abouthalf a league out of the town. He drove to the farmhouse; when thecarriage drove up, a young lady looked out of the window on thefirst floor. It was Rose de Beaurepaire. She caught the doctor'seye, and he hers. She came down and welcomed him with a greatappearance of cordiality, and asked him, with a smile, how he foundthem out.
Chaptfuture of uniswap coiner 1 Left AloneThe dreary March evening is rapidly passing from murky gloom to obscurity. Gusts of icy rain and sleet are sweeping full against a man who, though driving, bows his head so low that he cannot see his horses. The patient beasts, however, plod along the miry road, unerringly taking their course to the distant stable door. The highway sometimes passes through a grove on the edge of a forest, and the trees creak and groan as they writhe in the heavy blasts. In occasional groups of pines there is sighing and moaning almost human in suggestiveness of trouble. Never had Nature been in a more dismal mood, never had she been more prodigal of every element of discomfort, and never had the hero of my story been more cast down in heart and hope than on this chaotic day which, even to his dull fancy, appeared closing in harmony with his feelings and fortune. He is going home, yet the thought brings no assurance of welcome and comfort. As he cowers upon the seat of his market wagon, he is to the reader what he is in the fading light--a mere dim outline of a man. His progress is so slow that there will be plenty of time to relate some facts about him which will make the scenes and events to follow more intelligible.
James Holcroft is a middle-aged man and the owner of a small, hilly farm. He had inherited his rugged acres from his father, had always lived upon them, and the feeling had grown strong with the lapse of time that he could live nowhere else. Yet he knew that he was, in the vernacular of the region, "going down-hill." The small savings of years were slowly melting away, and the depressing feature of this truth was that he did not see how he could help himself. He was not a sanguine man, but rather one endowed with a hard, practical sense which made it clear that the down-hill process had only to continue sufficiently long to leave him landless and penniless. It was all so distinct on this dismal evening that he groaned aloud."If it comes to that, I don't know what I'll do--crawl away on a night like this and give up, like enough."Perhaps he was right. When a man with a nature like his "gives up," the end has come. The low, sturdy oaks that grew so abundantly along the road were types of his character--they could break, but not bend. He had little suppleness, little power to adapt himself to varied conditions of life. An event had occurred a year since, which for months, he could only contemplate with dull wonder and dismay. In his youth he had married the daughter of a small farmer. Like himself, she had always been accustomed to toil and frugal living. From childhood she had been impressed with the thought that parting with a dollar was a serious matter, and to save a dollar one of the good deeds rewarded in this life and the life to come. She and her husband were in complete harmony on this vital point. Yet not a miserly trait entered into their humble thrift. It was a necessity entailed by their meager resources; it was inspired by the wish for an honest independence in their old age.There was to be no old age for her. She took a heavy cold, and almost before her husband was aware of her danger, she had left his side. He was more than grief-stricken, he was appalled. No children had blessed their union, and they had become more and more to each other in their simple home life. To many it would have seemed a narrow and even a sordid life. It could not have been the latter, for all their hard work, their petty economies and plans to increase the hoard in the savings bank were robbed of sordidness by an honest, quiet affection for each other, by mutual sympathy and a common purpose. It undoubtedly was a meager life, which grew narrower with time and habit. There had never been much romance to begin with, but something that often wears better--mutual respect and affection. From the first, James Holcroft had entertained the sensible hope that she was just the girl to help him make a living from his hillside farm, and he had not hoped for or even thought of very much else except the harmony and good comradeship which bless people who are suited to each other. He had been disappointed in no respect; they had toiled and gathered like ants; they were confidential partners in the homely business and details of the farm; nothing was wasted, not even time. The little farmhouse abounded in comfort, and was a model of neatness and order. If it and its surroundings were devoid of grace and ornament, they were not missed, for neither of its occupants had ever been accustomed to such things. The years which passed so uneventfully only cemented the union and increased the sense of mutual dependence. They would have been regarded as exceedingly matter-of-fact and undemonstrative, but they were kind to each other and understood each other. Feeling that they were slowly yet surely getting ahead, they looked forward to an old age of rest and a sufficiency for their simple needs. Then, before he could realize the truth, he was left alone at her wintry grave; neighbors dispersed after the brief service, and he plodded back to his desolate home. There was no relative to step in and partially make good his loss. Some of the nearest residents sent a few cooked provisions until he could get help, but these attentions soon ceased. It was believed that he was abundantly able to take care of himself, and he was left to do so. He was not exactly unpopular, but had been much too reticent and had lived too secluded a life to find uninvited sympathy now. He was the last man, however, to ask for sympathy or help; and this was not due to misanthropy, but simply to temperament and habits of life. He and his wife had been sufficient for each other, and the outside world was excluded chiefly because they had not time or taste for social interchanges. As a result, he suffered serious disadvantages; he was misunderstood and virtually left to meet his calamity alone.But, indeed he could scarcely have met it in any other way. Even to his wife, he had never formed the habit of speaking freely of his thoughts and feelings. There had been no need, so complete was the understanding between them. A hint, a sentence, reveled to each other their simple and limited processes of thought. To talk about her now to strangers was impossible. He had no language by which to express the heavy, paralyzing pain in his heart.
For a time he performed necessary duties in a dazed, mechanical way. The horses and live stock were fed regularly, the cows milked; but the milk stood in the dairy room until it spoiled. Then he would sit down at his desolate hearth and gaze for hours into the fire, until it sunk down and died out. Perhaps no class in the world suffers from such a terrible sense of loneliness as simple-natured country people, to whom a very few have been all the company they required.At last Holcroft partially shook off his stupor, and began the experiment of keeping house and maintaining his dairy with hired help. For a long year he had struggled on through all kinds of domestic vicissitude, conscious all the time that things were going from bad to worse. His house was isolated, the region sparsely settled, and good help difficult to be obtained under favoring auspices. The few respectable women in the neighborhood who occasionally "lent a hand" in other homes than their own would not compromise themselves, as they expressed it, by "keepin' house for a widower." Servants obtained from the neighboring town either could not endure the loneliness, or else were so wasteful and ignorant that the farmer, in sheer desperation, discharged them. The silent, grief-stricken, rugged-featured man was no company for anyone. The year was but a record of changes, waste, and small pilferings. Although he knew he could not afford it, he tried the device of obtaining two women instead of one, so that they might have society in each other; but either they would not stay or else he found that he had two thieves to deal with instead of one--brazen, incompetent creatures who knew more about whisky than milk, and who made his home a terror to him."You have been unwell, my child.""A little, dear friend; you know me; always ailing, and tormentingthose I love.""Well! but, Josephine, you know this place and this sweet air alwaysset you up. Look at her now, doctor; did you ever see her lookbetter? See what a color. I never saw her look more lovely.""I never saw her look SO lovely; but I have seen her look better.
Your pulse. A little languid?""Yes, I am a little.""Do you stay at Beaurepaire?" inquired Rose; "if so, we will comehome.""On the contrary, you will stay here another fortnight," said thedoctor, authoritatively."Prescribe some of your nice tonics for me, doctor," said Josephine,coaxingly."No! I can't do that; you are in the hands of another practitioner.""What does that matter? You were at Paris.""It is not the etiquette in our profession to interfere with anotherman's patients.""Oh, dear! I am so sorry," began Josephine."I see nothing here that my good friend Mivart is not competent todeal with," said the doctor, coldly.
Then followed some general conversation, at the end of which thedoctor once more laid his commands on them to stay another fortnightwhere they were, and bade them good-by.He was no sooner gone than Rose went to the door of the kitchen, andcalled out, "Madame Jouvenel! Madame Jouvenel! you may come intothe garden again."The doctor drove away; but, instead of going straight to Beaurepaire,he ordered the driver to return to the town. He then walked toMivart's house.
In about a quarter of an hour he came out of it, looking singularlygrave, sad, and stern.Chapter 17Edouard Riviere contrived one Saturday to work off all arrears ofbusiness, and start for Beaurepaire. He had received a very kindletter from Rose, and his longing to see her overpowered him. Onthe road his eyes often glittered, and his cheek flushed withexpectation. At last he got there. His heart beat: for four monthshe had not seen her. He ran up into the drawing-room, and therefound the baroness alone; she welcomed him cordially, but soon lethim know Rose and her sister were at Frejus. His heart sank.Frejus was a long way off. But this was not all. Rose's lastletter was dated from Beaurepaire, yet it must have been written atFrejus. He went to Jacintha, and demanded an explanation of this.
The ready Jacintha said it looked as if she meant to be homedirectly; and added, with cool cunning, "That is a hint for me toget their rooms ready.""This letter must have come here enclosed in another," said Edouard,sternly."Like enough," replied Jacintha, with an appearance of sovereignindifference.Edouard looked at her, and said, grimly, "I will go to Frejus.""So I would," said Jacintha, faltering a little, but notperceptibly; "you might meet them on the road, if so be they comethe same road; there are two roads, you know."Edouard hesitated; but he ended by sending Dard to the town on hisown horse, with orders to leave him at the inn, and borrow a freshhorse. "I shall just have time," said he. He rode to Frejus, andinquired at the inns and post-office for Mademoiselle deBeaurepaire. They did not know her; then he inquired for MadameRaynal. No such name known. He rode by the seaside upon the chanceof their seeing him. He paraded on horseback throughout the place,in hopes every moment that a window would open, and a fair faceshine at it, and call him. At last his time was up, and he wasobliged to ride back, sick at heart, to Beaurepaire. He told thebaroness, with some natural irritation, what had happened. She wasas much surprised as he was."I write to Madame Raynal at the post-office, Frejus," said she.
"And Madame Raynal gets your letters?""Of course she does, since she answers them; you cannot haveinquired at the post.""Why, it was the first place I inquired at, and neither Mademoisellede Beaurepaire nor Madame Raynal were known there."Jacintha, who could have given the clew, seemed so puzzled herself,that they did not even apply to her. Edouard took a sorrowful leaveof the baroness, and set out on his journey home.Oh! how sad and weary that ride seemed now by what it had beencoming. His disappointment was deep and irritating; and ere he hadridden half way a torturer fastened on his heart. That torture issuspicion; a vague and shadowy, but gigantic phantom that oppressesand rends the mind more terribly than certainty. In this state ofvague, sickening suspicion, he remained some days: then came anaffectionate letter from Rose, who had actually returned home. Inthis she expressed her regret and disappointment at having missedhim; blamed herself for misleading him, but explained that theirstay at Frejus had been prolonged from day to day far beyond herexpectation. "The stupidity of the post-office was more than shecould account for," said she. But, what went farthest to consoleEdouard, was, that after this contretemps she never ceased to invitehim to come to Beaurepaire. Now, before this, though she said manykind and pretty things in her letters, she had never invited him tovisit the chateau; he had noticed this. "Sweet soul," thought he,"she really is vexed. I must be a brute to think any more about it.
Still"--So this wound was skinned over.At last, what he called his lucky star ordained that he should betransferred to the very post his Commandant Raynal had onceoccupied. He sought and obtained permission to fix his quarters inthe little village near Beaurepaire, and though this plan could notbe carried out for three months, yet the prospect of it was joyfulall that time--joyful to both lovers. Rose needed this consolation,for she was very unhappy: her beloved sister, since their returnfrom Frejus, had gone back. The flush of health was faded, and sowas her late energy. She fell into deep depression and languor,broken occasionally by fits of nervous irritation.
She would sit for hours together at one window languishing andfretting. Can the female reader guess which way that window looked?Now, Edouard was a favorite of Josephine's; so Rose hoped he wouldhelp to distract her attention from those sorrows which a lapse ofyears alone could cure.On every account, then, his visit was looked forward to with hopeand joy.He came. He was received with open arms. He took up his quartersat his old lodgings, but spent his evenings and every leisure hourat the chateau.He was very much in love, and showed it. He adhered to Rose like aleech, and followed her about like a little dog.This would have made her very happy if there had been nothing greatto distract her attention and her heart; but she had Josephine,whose deep depression and fits of irritation and terror filled herwith anxiety; and so Edouard was in the way now and then. On theseoccasions he was too vain to see what she was too polite to show himoffensively.
But on this she became vexed at his obtuseness."Does he think I can be always at his beck and call?" thought she.
"She is always after her sister," said he.He was just beginning to be jealous of Josephine when the followingincident occurred:--Rose and the doctor were discussing Josephine. Edouard pretended tobe reading a book, but he listened to every word.
Dr. Aubertin gave it as his opinion that Madame Raynal did not makeenough blood."Oh! if I thought that!" cried Rose.
"Well, then, it is so, I assure you.""Doctor," said Rose, "do you remember, one day you said healthyblood could be drawn from robust veins and poured into a sickperson's?""It is a well-known fact," said Aubertin."I don't believe it," said Rose, dryly."Then you place a very narrow limit to science," said the doctor,coldly."Did you ever see it done?" asked Rose, slyly.
"I have not only seen it done, but have done it myself.""Then do it for us. There's my arm; take blood from that for dearJosephine!" and she thrust a white arm out under his eye with such abold movement and such a look of fire and love as never beamed fromcommon eyes.A keen, cold pang shot through the human heart of Edouard Riviere.
The doctor started and gazed at her with admiration: then he hunghis head. "I could not do it. I love you both too well to draineither of life's current."Rose veiled her fire, and began to coax. "Once a week; just once aweek, dear, dear doctor; you know I should never miss it. I am sofull of that health, which Heaven denies to her I love.""Let us try milder measures first," said the doctor. "I have mostfaith in time.""What if I were to take her to Frejus? hitherto, the sea has alwaysdone wonders for her.""Frejus, by all means," said Edouard, mingling suddenly in theconversation; "and this time I will go with you, and then I shallfind out where you lodged before, and how the boobies came to saythey did not know you."Rose bit her lip. She could not help seeing then how much dearEdouard was in her way and Josephine's. Their best friends are inthe way of all who have secrets. Presently the doctor went to hisstudy. Then Edouard let fall a mock soliloquy. "I wonder," saidhe, dropping out his words one by one, "whether any one will everlove me well enough to give a drop of their blood for me.""If you were in sickness and sorrow, who knows?" said Rose, coloringup."I would soon be in sickness and sorrow if I thought that.""Don't jest with such matters, monsieur.""I am serious. I wish I was as ill as Madame Raynal is, to be lovedas she is.""You must resemble her in some other things to be loved as she is.
"You have often made me feel that of late, dear Rose."This touched her. But she fought down the kindly feeling. "I amglad of it," said she, out of perverseness. She added after awhile, "Edouard, you are naturally jealous.""Not the least in the world, Rose, I assure you. I have manyfaults, but jealous I am not.""Oh, yes, you are, and suspicious, too; there is something in yourcharacter that alarms me for our happiness.""Well, if you come to that, there are things in YOUR conduct I couldwish explained.""There! I said so. You have not confidence in me.""Pray don't say that, dear Rose. I have every confidence in you;only please don't ask me to divest myself of my senses and myreason.""I don't ask you to do that or anything else for me; good-by, forthe present.""Where are you going now? tic! tic! I never can get a word in peacewith you.""I am not going to commit murder. I'm only going up-stairs to mysister.""Poor Madame Raynal, she makes it very hard for me not to dislikeher.""Dislike my Josephine?" and Rose bristled visibly."She is an angel, but I should hate an angel if it came foreverbetween you and me.""Excuse me, she was here long before you. It is you that camebetween her and me.""I came because I was told I should be welcome," said Edouardbitterly, and equivocating a little; he added, "and I dare say Ishall go when I am told I am one too many.""Bad heart! who says you are one too many in the house? But you aretoo exigent, monsieur; you assume the husband, and you tease me. Itis selfish; can you not see I am anxious and worried? you ought tobe kind to me, and soothe me; that is what I look for from you, and,instead of that, I declare you are getting to be quite a worry.""I should not be if you loved me as I love you. I give YOU norival. Shall I tell you the cause of all this? you have secrets.""What secrets?""Is it me you ask? am I trusted with them? Secrets are a bond thatnot even love can overcome. It is to talk secrets you run away fromme to Madame Raynal. Where did you lodge at Frejus, Mademoisellethe Reticent?""In a grotto, dry at low water, Monsieur the Inquisitive.""That is enough: since you will not tell me, I will find it outbefore I am a week older."This alarmed Rose terribly, and drove her to extremities. Shedecided to quarrel.
"Sir," said she, "I thank you for playing the tyrant a littleprematurely; it has put me on my guard. Let us part; you and I arenot suited to each other, Edouard Riviere."He took this more humbly than she expected. "Part!" said he, inconsternation; "that is a terrible word to pass between you and me.Forgive me! I suppose I am jealous.""You are; you are actually jealous of my sister. Well, I tell youplainly I love you, but I love my sister better. I never could loveany man as I do her; it is ridiculous to expect such a thing.""And do you think I could bear to play second fiddle to her all mylife?""I don't ask you. Go and play first trumpet to some other lady.""You speak your wishes so plainly now, I have nothing to do but toobey."He kissed her hand and went away disconsolately.Rose, instead of going to Josephine, her determination to do whichhad mainly caused the quarrel, sat sadly down, and leaned her headon her hand. "I am cruel. I am ungrateful. He has gone awaybroken-hearted. And what shall I do without him?--little fool! Ilove him better than he loves me. He will never forgive me. I havewounded his vanity; and they are vainer than we are. If we meet atdinner I will be so kind to him, he will forget it all. No! Edouardwill not come to dinner. He is not a spaniel that you can beat, andthen whistle back again. Something tells me I have lost him, and ifI have, what shall I do? I will write him a note. I will ask himto forgive me."She sat down at the table, and took a sheet of notepaper and beganto write a few conciliatory words. She was so occupied in makingthese kind enough, and not too kind, that a light step approachedher unobserved. She looked up and there was Edouard. She whippedthe paper off the table.A look of suspicion and misery crossed Edouard's face.
Rose caught it, and said, "Well, am I to be affronted any more?""No, Rose. I came back to beg you to forget what passed just now,"said he.Rose's eye flashed; his return showed her her power. She abused itdirectly.
"How can I forget it if you come reminding me?""Dear Rose, now don't be so unkind, so cruel--I have not come backto tease you, sweet one. I come to know what I can do to pleaseyou; to make you love me again?" and he was about to kneelgraciously on one knee."I'll tell you. Don't come near me for a month."Edouard started up, white as ashes with mortification and woundedlove.
"This is how you treat me for humbling myself, when it is you thatought to ask forgiveness.""Why should I ask what I don't care about?""What DO you care about?--except that sister of yours? You have noheart. And on this cold-blooded creature I have wasted a love anempress might have been proud of inspiring. I pray Heaven some manmay sport with your affections, you heartless creature, as you haveplayed with mine, and make you suffer what I suffer now!"And with a burst of inarticulate grief and rage he flung out of theroom.Rose sank trembling on the sofa a little while: then with a mightyeffort rose and went to comfort her sister.