"Nothing, mamma.""Let me see this nothing."They glanced at onethereum classic a good buye another, and, idle as the attempt was, the habitof sparing her prevailed, and they flung themselves between her andthe blow.
"Well, it's a pity some good, decent woman--There, how should I come to forget all about HER till this minute? I don't know whether it would work. Perhaps it would. There's a woman here out of the comapp to buy tron coinmon run. She has quite a story, which I'll tell you in confidence. Then you can say whether you'd like to employ her or not. If you WILL stay on the farm, my advice is that you have a woman to do the housework, and me and Angy must try to find you one, if the one I have in mind won't answer. The trouble is, Holcroft, to get the right kind of a woman to live there alone with you, unless you married her. Nice women don't like to be talked about, and I don't blame 'em. The one that's here, though, is so friendless and alone in the world that she might be glad enough to get a home almost anywheres.""Well, well! Tell me about her," said Holcroft gloomily. "But I'm about discouraged in the line of women help."
Watterly told Alida's story with a certain rude pathos which touched the farmer's naturally kind heart, and he quite forgot his own need in indignation at the poor woman's wrongs. "It's a **** shame!" he said excitedly, pacing the room. "I say, Tom, all the law in the land wouldn't keep me from giving that fellow a whipping or worse.""Well, she won't prosecute; she won't face the public; she just wants to go to some quiet place and work for her bread. She don't seem to have any friends, or else she's too ashamed to let them know.""Why, of course I'd give such a woman a refuge till she could do better. What man wouldn't?""A good many wouldn't. What's more, if she went with you her story might get out, and you'd both be talked about.""I don't care that for gossip," with a snap of his fingers. "You know I'd treat her with respect."
"What I know, and what other people would say, are two very different things. Neither you nor anyone else can go too strongly against public opinion. Still, it's nobody's business," added Tom thoughtfully. "Perhaps it's worth the trial. If she went I think she'd stay and do the best by you she could. Would you like to see her?""Yes."ah! I see; I have once more deceived myself. I was mad. He I loveis still a traitor to France and me, and I am wretched forever. Oh!
that I were dead! oh! that I were dead! No; don't speak to me:never mind me; this madness will pass as it has before, and leave mea dead thing among the living. Ah! sister, why did you wake me frommy dream? I was drifting so calmly, so peacefully, so dead, andpainless, drifting over the dead sea of the heart towards the livingwaters of gratitude and duty. I was going to make more than oneworthy soul happy; and seeing them happy, I should have been contentand useful--what am I now?--and comforted other hearts, and diedjoyful--and young. For God is good; he releases the meek andpatient from their burdens."With this came a flood of tears; and she leaned against a bough withher forehead on her arm, bowed like a wounded lily."Accursed be that man's name, and MY tongue if ever I utter it againin your hearing!" cried Rose, weeping bitterly. "You are wiser thanI, and every way better. O my darling, dry your tears! Here hecomes: look! riding across the park.""Rose," cried Josephine, hastily, "I leave all to you. ReceiveMonsieur Raynal, and decline his offer if you think proper. It isyou who love me best. My mother would give me up for a house; foran estate, poor dear.""I would not give you for all the world.""I know it. I trust all to you.""Well, but don't go; stay and hear what I shall say.""Oh, no; that poor man is intolerable to me NOW. Let me avoid hissight, and think of his virtues."Rose was left alone, mistress of her sister's fate. She put herhead into her hands and filled with anxiety and sudden doubt.Like a good many more of us, she had been positive so long as thedecision did not rest with her. But with power comes responsibility,with responsibility comes doubt. Easy to be an advocate inre incerta; hard to be the judge. And she had but a few secondsto think in; for Raynal was at hand. The last thing in hermind before he joined her was the terrible power of that baseCamille over her sister. She despaired of curing Josephine, but ahusband might. There's such divinity doth hedge a husband ininnocent girls' minds.
"Well, little lady," began Raynal, "and how are you, and how is mymother-in-law that is to be--or is not to be, as your sisterpleases; and how is SHE? have I frightened her away? There were twopetticoats, and now there is but one.""She left me to answer you.""All the worse for me: I am not to your taste.""Do not say that," said Rose, almost hysterically."Oh! it is no sacrilege. Not one in fifty likes me.""But I
Chapter 6At Bayonne, a garrison town on the south frontier of France, twosentinels walked lethargically, crossing and recrossing before thegovernor's house. Suddenly their official drowsiness burst intoenergy; for a pale, grisly man, in rusty, defaced, dirty, and tornregimentals, was walking into the courtyard as if it belonged tohim. The sentinels lowered their muskets, and crossed them with aclash before the gateway.The scarecrow did not start back. He stopped and looked down with asmile at the steel barrier the soldiers had improvised for him, thendrew himself a little up, carried his hand carelessly to his cap,which was nearly in two, and gave the name of an officer in theFrench army.If you or I, dressed like a beggar who years ago had stolenregimentals and worn them down to civil garments, had addressedthese soldiers with these very same words, the bayonets would havekissed closer, or perhaps the points been turned against our sacredand rusty person: but there is a freemasonry of the sword. Thelight, imperious hand that touched that battered cap, and the quietclear tone of command told. The sentinels slowly recovered theirpieces, but still looked uneasy and doubtful in their minds. Thebattered one saw this, and gave a sort of lofty smile; he turned uphis cuffs and showed his wrists, and drew himself still higher.
The sentinels shouldered their pieces sharp, then dropped themsimultaneously with a clatter and ring upon the pavement."Pass, captain."The rusty figure rang the governor's bell. A servant came and eyedhim with horror and contempt. He gave his name, and begged to seethe governor. The servant left him in the hall, and went up-stairsto tell his master. At the name the governor reflected, thenfrowned, then bade his servant reach him down a certain book. Heinspected it. "I thought so: any one with him?""No, your excellency.""Load my pistols, put them on the table, show him in, and then ordera guard to the door."The governor was a stern veteran with a powerful brow, a shaggyeyebrow, and a piercing eye. He never rose, but leaned his chin onhis hand, and his elbow on a table that stood between them, and eyedhis visitor very fixedly and strangely. "We did not expect to seeyou on this side the Pyrenees," said he gravely."Nor I myself, governor.""What do you come for?""A suit of regimentals, and money to take me to Paris.""And suppose, instead of that, I turn out a corporal's guard, andbid them shoot you in the courtyard?""It would be the drollest thing you ever did, all things considered,"said the other coolly, but bitterly.The governor looked for the book he had lately consulted, found thepage, handed it to the rusty officer, and watched him keenly: theblood rushed all over his face, and his lip trembled; but his eyedwelt stern yet sorrowful on the governor.
"I have read your book, now read mine." He drew off his coat andshowed his wrists and arms, blue and waled. "Can you read that,sir?""No.""All the better for you: Spanish fetters, general." He showed awhite scar on his shoulder. "Can you read that? This is what I cutout of it," and he handed the governor a little round stone as bigand almost as regular as a musket-ball."Humph! that could hardly have been fired from a French musket.""Can you read this?" and he showed him a long cicatrix on his otherarm.
"Knife I think," said the governor."You are right, sir: Spanish knife. Can you read this?" and openinghis bosom he showed a raw wound on his breast.
"Oh, the devil!" cried the governor.The wounded man put his rusty coat on again, and stood erect, andhaughty, and silent.The general eyed him, and saw his great spirit shining through thisman. The more he looked the less could the scarecrow veil the herofrom his practised eye. He said there must be some mistake, or elsehe was in his dotage; after a moment's hesitation, he added, "Beseated, if you please, and tell me what you have been doing allthese years.""Suffering.""Not all the time, I suppose.""Without intermission.""But what? suffering what?""Cold, hunger, darkness, wounds, solitude, sickness, despair,prison, all that man can suffer.""Impossible! a man would be dead at that rate before this.""I should have died a dozen deaths but for one thing; I had promisedher to live."There was a pause. Then the old soldier said gravely, but morekindly, to the young one, "Tell me the facts, captain" (the firsttime he had acknowledged his visitor's military rank).An hour had scarce elapsed since the rusty figure was stopped by thesentinels at the gate, when two glittering officers passed out underthe same archway, followed by a servant carrying a furred cloak.The sentinels presented arms. The elder of these officers was thegovernor: the younger was the late scarecrow, in a brand-new uniformbelonging to the governor's son. He shone out now in his truelight; the beau ideal of a patrician soldier; one would have said hehad been born with a sword by his side and drilled by nature, sostraight and smart, yet easy he was in every movement. He was likea falcon, eye and all, only, as it were, down at the bottom of thehawk's eye lay a dove's eye. That compound and varying eye seemedto say, I can love, I can fight: I can fight, I can love, as few ofyou can do either.The old man was trying to persuade him to stay at Bayonne, until hiswound should be cured.
"No, general, I have other wounds to cure of longer standing thanthis one.""Well, promise me to lay up at Paris.""General, I shall stay an hour at Paris.""An hour in Paris! Well, at least call at the War Office andpresent this letter."That same afternoon, wrapped in the governor's furred cloak, theyoung officer lay at his full length in the coupe of the diligence,the whole of which the governor had peremptorily demanded for him,and rolled day and night towards Paris.He reached it worn with fatigue and fevered by his wound, but hisspirit as indomitable as ever. He went to the War Office with thegovernor's letter. It seemed to create some little sensation; onefunctionary came and said a polite word to him, then another. Atlast to his infinite surprise the minister himself sent down word hewished to see him; the minister put several questions to him, andseemed interested in him and touched by his relation.
"I think, captain, I shall have to send to you: where do you stay inParis?""Nowhere, monsieur; I leave Paris as soon as I can find an easy-going horse.""But General Bretaux tells me you are wounded.""Not dangerously.""Pardon me, captain, but is this prudent? is it just to yourself andyour friends?""Yes, I owe it to those who perhaps think me dead.""You can write to them.""I grudge so great, so sacred a joy to a letter. No! after all Ihave suffered I claim to be the one to tell her I have kept my word:I promised to live, and I live.""HER? then I say no more, only tell me what road you take.""The road to Brittany."As the young officer was walking his horse by the roadside about aleague and a half from Paris, he heard a clatter behind him, and upgalloped an aide-de-camp and drew up alongside, bringing his horsenearly on his haunches.
He handed him a large packet sealed with the arms of France. Theother tore it open; and there was his brevet as colonel. His cheekflushed and his eye glittered with joy. The aide-de-camp next gavehim a parcel: "Your epaulets, colonel! We hear you are going intothe wilds where epaulets don't grow. You are to join the army ofthe Rhine as soon as your wound is well.""Wherever my country calls me.""Your address, then, colonel, that we may know where to put ourfinger on a tried soldier when we want one.""I am going to Beaurepaire.""Beaurepaire? I never heard of it.""You never heard of Beaurepaire? it is in Brittany, forty-fiveleagues from Paris, forty-three leagues and a half from here.""Good! Health and honor to you, colonel.""The same to you, lieutenant; or a soldier's death."The new colonel read the precious document across his horse's mane,and then he was going to put one of the epaulets on his rightshoulder, bare at present: but he reflected."No; she should make him a colonel with her own dear hand. He putthem in his pocket. He would not even look at them till she hadseen them. Oh, how happy he was not only to come back to her alive,but to come back to her honored."His wound smarted, his limbs ached, but no pain past or presentcould lay hold of his mind. In his great joy he remembered pastsuffering and felt present pain--yet smiled. Only every now andthen he pined for wings to shorten the weary road.
He was walking his horse quietly, drooping a little over his saddle,when another officer well mounted came after him and passed him at ahand gallop with one hasty glance at his uniform, and went tearingon like one riding for his life."Don't I know that face?" said Dujardin.He cudgelled his memory, and at last he remembered it was the faceof an old comrade. At least it strongly reminded him of one JeanRaynal who had saved his life in the Arno, when they were lieutenantstogether.Yes, it was certainly Raynal, only bronzed by service in some hotcountry.
"Ah!" thought Camille; "I suppose I am more changed than he is; forhe certainly did not recognize me at all. Now I wonder what thatfellow has been doing all this time. What a hurry he was in! amoment more and I should have hailed him. Perhaps I may fall inwith him at the next town."He touched his horse with the spur, and cantered gently on, fortrotting shook him more than he could bear. Even when he canteredhe had to press his hand against his bosom, and often with themotion a bitterer pang than usual came and forced the water from hiseyes; and then he smiled. His great love and his high courage madethis reply to the body's anguish. And still his eyes lookedstraight forward as at some object in the distant horizon, while hecame gently on, his hand pressed to his bosom, his head drooping nowand then, smiling patiently, upon the road to Beaurepaire.Oh! if anybody had told him that in five days his Josephine was tobe married; and that the bronzed comrade, who had just galloped pasthim, was to marry her!
At Beaurepaire they were making and altering wedding-dresses. Rosewas excited, and even Josephine took a calm interest. Dress nevergoes for nothing with her sex. The chairs and tables were covered,and the floor was littered. The baroness was presiding over therites of vanity, and telling them what she wore at her wedding,under Louis XV., with strict accuracy, and what we men shouldconsider a wonderful effort of memory, when the Commandant Raynalcame in like a cannon-ball, without any warning, and stood amongthem in a stiff, military attitude. Exclamations from all theparty, and then a kind greeting, especially from the baroness."We have been so dull without you, Jean.""And I have missed you once or twice, mother-in-law, I can tell you.
Well, I have got bad news; but you must consider we live in a busytime. To-morrow I start for Egypt."Loud ejaculations from the baroness and Rose. Josephine put downher work quietly.The baroness sighed deeply, and the tears came into her eyes. "Oh,you must not be down-hearted, old lady," shouted Raynal. "Why, I amas likely to come back from Egypt as not. It is an even chance, tosay the least."This piece of consolation completed the baroness's unhappiness. Shereally had conceived a great affection for Raynal, and her heart hadbeen set on the wedding.
"Take away all that finery, girls," said she bitterly; "we shall notwant it for years. I shall not be alive when he comes home fromEgypt. I never had a son--only daughters--the best any woman everhad; but a mother is not complete without a son, and I shall neverlive to have one now.""I hate General Bonaparte," said Rose viciously."Hate my general?" groaned Raynal, looking down with a sort ofsuperstitious awe and wonder at the lovely vixen. "Hate the bestsoldier the world ever saw?""What do I care for his soldiership? He has put off our wedding.For how many years did you say?""No; he has put it on."In answer to the astonished looks this excited, he explained thatthe wedding was to have been in a week, but now it must be to-morrowat ten o'clock.The three ladies set up their throats together. "Tomorrow?""To-morrow. Why, what do you suppose I left Paris for yesterday?
left my duties even.""What, monsieur?" asked Josephine, timidly, "did you ride all thatway, and leave your duties MERELY TO MARRY ME?" and she looked alittle pleased."You are worth a great deal more trouble than that," said Raynalsimply. "Besides, I had passed my word, and I always keep my word.""So do I," said Josephine, a little proudly. "I will not go from itnow, if you insist; but I confess to you, that such a proposalstaggers me; so sudden--no preliminaries--no time to reflect; inshort, there are so many difficulties that I must request you toreconsider the matter.""Difficulties," shouted Raynal with merry disdain; "there are none,unless you sit down and make them; we do more difficult things thanthis every day of our lives: we passed the bridge of Arcola inthirteen minutes; and we had not the consent of the enemy, as wehave yours--have we not?"Her only reply was a look at her mother, to which the baronessreplied by a nod; then turning to Raynal, "This empressement is veryflattering; but I see no possibility: there is an etiquette wecannot altogether defy: there are preliminaries before a daughter ofBeaurepaire can become a wife.""There used to be all that, madam," laughed Raynal, putting her downgood-humoredly; "but it was in the days when armies came out andtouched their caps to one another, and went back into winterquarters. Then the struggle was who could go slowest; now the fightis who can go fastest. Time and Bonaparte wait for nobody; andladies and other strong places are taken by storm, not undermined afoot a month as under Noah Quartorze: let me cut this short, as timeis short."He then drew a little plan of a wedding campaign. "The carriageswill be here at 9 A.M.," said he; "they will whisk us down to themayor's house by a quarter to ten: Picard, the notary, meets usthere with the marriage contract, to save time; the contract signed,the mayor will do the marriage at quick step out of respect for me--half an hour--quarter past ten; breakfast in the same house an hourand a quarter:--we mustn't hurry a wedding breakfast--then tenminutes or so for the old fogies to waste in making speeches aboutour virtues--my watch will come out--my charger will come round--Irise from the table--embrace my dear old mother--kiss my wife'shand--into the saddle--canter to Paris--roll to Toulon--sail toEgypt. But I shall leave a wife and a mother behind me: they willboth send me a kind word now and then; and I will write letters toyou all from Egypt, and when I come home, my wife and I will makeacquaintance, and we will all be happy together: and if I am killedout there, don't you go and fret your poor little hearts about it;it is a soldier's lot sooner or later. Besides, you will find Ihave taken care of you; nobody shall come and turn you out of yourquarters, even though Jean Raynal should be dead; I have got to meetPicard at Riviere's on that very business--I am off."He was gone as brusquely as he came.
"Mother! sister!" cried Josephine, "help me to love this man.""You need no help," cried the baroness, with enthusiasm, "not lovehim, we should all be monsters."Raynal came to supper looking bright and cheerful. "No more workto-day. I have nothing to do but talk; fancy that."This evening Josephine de Beaurepaire, who had been silent andthoughtful, took a quiet opportunity, and purred in his ear,"Monsieur!""Mademoiselle!" rang the trombone."Am I not to go to Egypt?""No."Josephine drew back at this brusque reply like a sensitive plant.
But she returned to the attack."But is it not a wife's duty to be by her husband's side to lookafter his comfort--to console him when others vex him--to soothe himwhen he is harassed?""Her first duty is to obey him.""Certainly.""Well, when I am your husband, I shall bid you stay with your motherand sister while I go to Egypt.""I shall obey you."He told her bluntly he thought none the worse of her for making theoffer; but should not accept it.