"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, ybitcoin in euro kursoung 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.
Camille winced at this affront, and drew back a moment; but hisnobler part prevailed. He seized Raynal by the wrist. "You shallnot affront me, you cannot affront me. You go to certain death Itell you, if you attack that bastion.""Don't be a fool, colonel," said Raynal: "somebody must solana crypto how to buylead themen.""Yes; but not you. Who has so good a right to lead them as I, theircolonel?""And be killed in my place, eh?""I know the ground better than you," said Camille. "Besides, whocares for me? I have no friends, no family. But you are married--and so many will mourn if you"--Raynal interrupted him sternly. "You forget, sir, that Rose deBeaurepaire is my sister, when you tell me you have no tie to life."He added, with wonderful dignity and sobriety, "Allow me to write tomy wife, sir; and, while I write, reflect that you can embitter anold comrade's last moments by persisting in your refusal to restorehis sister the honor you have robbed her of."And leaving the other staggered and confused by this sudden blow, heretired into Dujardin's tent, and finding writing materials on alittle table that was there, sat down to pen a line to Josephine.Camille knew to whom he was writing, and a jealous pang passedthrough him.
What he wrote ran thus,--"A bastion is to be attacked at five. I command. Colonel Dujardinproposed we should draw lots, and I lost. The service is honorable,but the result may, I fear, give you some pain. My dear wife, it isour fate. I was not to have time to make you know, and perhaps loveme. God bless you."In writing these simple words, Raynal's hard face worked, and hismustache quivered, and once he had to clear his eye with his hand toform the letters. He, the man of iron.He who stood there, leaning on his scabbard and watching the writer,saw this, and it stirred all that was great and good in that grandthough passionate heart of his."Poor Raynal!" thought he, "you were never like that before on goinginto action. He is loath to die. Ay, and it is a coward's trick tolet him die. I shall have her, but shall I have her esteem? Whatwill the army say? What will my conscience say? Oh! I feel alreadyit will gnaw my heart to death; the ghost of that brave fellow--oncemy dear friend, my rival now, by no fault of his--will rise betweenher and me, and reproach me with my bloody inheritance. The heartnever deceives; I feel it now whispering in my ear: 'Skulkingcaptain, white-livered soldier, that stand behind a parapet while abetter man does your work! you assassinate the husband, but therival conquers you.' There, he puts his hand to his eyes. Whatshall I do?""Colonel," said a low voice, and at the same time a hand was laid onhis shoulder.It was General Raimbaut. The general looked pale and distressed."Come apart, colonel, for Heaven's sake! One word, while he iswriting. Ah! that was an unlucky idea of yours.""Of mine, general?""'Twas you proposed to cast lots.""Good God! so it was.""I thought of course it was to be managed so that Raynal should notbe the one. Between ourselves, what honorable excuse can we make?""None, general.""The whole division will be disgraced, and forgive me if I say aportion of the discredit will fall on you.""Help me to avert that shame then," cried Camille, eagerly.
"Ah! that I will: but how?""Take your pencil and write--'I authorize Colonel Dujardin to savethe honor of the colonels of the second division.'"The general hesitated. He had never seen an order so worded. Butat last he took out his pencil and wrote the required order, afterhis own fashion; i.e., in milk and water:--On account of the singular ability and courage with which ColonelDujardin has conducted the operations against the Bastion St. Andre,a discretionary power is given him at the moment of assault to carryinto effect such measures, as, without interfering with thecommander-in-chief's order, may sustain his own credit, and that ofthe other colonels of the second division.RAIMBAUT, General of Division."Well," said Holcroft, "how short can you make it?"
"Let me get my book," and he took from a shelf the "Justice's Assistant." "You can't want anything shorter than this?" and he read, "'By this act of joining hands you do take each other as husband and wife and solemnly engage in the presence of these witnesses to love and honor and comfort and cherish each other as such so long as you both shall live. Therefore, in accordance with the law of the state of New York I do hereby pronounce you husband and wife.' A sailor couldn't tie a knot quicker than that.""I guess you can, justice," said Holcroft, taking the book. "Suppose you only read this much: 'By this act of joining hands you do take each other as husband and wife. Therefore, in accordance with the law, etc.' Would that be a legal marriage?""Certainly. You'd have to go to a divorce court to get out of that.""It's my purpose to keep out of courts of all kinds. I'll thank you to read just that much and no more. I don't want to say anything that isn't exactly true."
"You see how it is, Ben. Holcroft hasn't known the woman long, and she's a nice woman, too, if she is boarding at my hotel. Holcroft needs a wife--must have one, in fact, to help run his house and dairy. It wasn't exactly a love match, you know; and he's that kind of a man that a yoke of oxen couldn't draw a word out of him that he didn't mean.""Yes, yes, I see now," said Harkins. "I'll read just what you say and no more."
"And I'll have a little spread that we can be longer at than the ceremony," added Watterly, who was inclined to be a little hilarious over the affair.Holcroft, however, maintained his grave manner, and when they reached the almshouse he took Watterly aside and said, "See here, Tom, you've been a good friend today and seconded me in everything. Now let the affair pass off just as quietly and seriously as possible. She's too cast down for a gay wedding. Suppose we had a daughter who'd been through such an experience--a nice, good, modest girl. Her heart's too sore for fun and jokes. My marrying her is much the same as pulling her out of deep water in which she was sinking.""You're right, Jim. I didn't think, and one doesn't have much cause to be so sparing of the feelings of such creatures as come here. But she's out of the common run, and I ought to have remembered it. By jocks! You're mighty careful about promising to love, cherish, and obey, and all that, but I guess you'll do a sight more than many who do promise.""Of course I'm going to be kind. That's my duty. Give Harkins a hint. Tell him that she's lost her mother. He needn't know when the old lady died, but it will kind of solemnize him."
Watterly did as requested, and Harkins, now convinced that his political interests could be furthered by careful compliance with all requirements, put on a grave, official air and was ready for business.Alida was sent for. She was too agitated to say farewell to any of the poor creatures with whom she had been compelled to associate--even to the few who, though scarcely sane, had manifested tenderness and affection. She had felt that she must reserve all her strength for the coming ordeal, which she both welcomed and feared inexpressibly. She knew how critical was the step she was taking and how much depended on it, yet the more she thought, the more it seemed to her as if Providence had, as by a miracle, given her a refuge. Holcroft's businesslike view of the marriage comforted her greatly, and she asked God to give her health and strength to work faithfully for him many years.But she had sad misgivings as she followed the messenger, for she felt so weak that she could scarcely walk. It was indeed a pallid, sorrowful, trembling bride that entered Mr.Watterly's parlor. Holcroft met her and taking her hand, said kindly, "Courage! It will be over in a minute."She was so pale and agitated that the justice asked, "do you enter into this marriage freely and without compulsion of any kind?"
"Please let me sit down a moment," she faltered, and Watterly hastened to give her a chair. She fixed her eyes on Holcroft, and said anxiously, "You see, sir, how weak I am. I have been sick and--and I fear I am far from being well now. I fear you will be disappointed--that it is not right to you, and that I may not be able--""Alida," interrupted Holcroft gravely, "I'm not one to break my word. Home and quiet will soon restore you. Answer the justice and tell him the exact truth."
No elixir could have brought hope and courage like that word "home." She rose at once and said to Harkins, "I have consented to Mr. Holcroft's wishes with feelings of the deepest gratitude.""Very well. Join hands."
She hesitated and looked for a moment at Holcroft with strange intensity."It's all right, Alida," he said with a smile. "Come!"His perfect honesty and steadfastness of purpose stood him in good stead then, for she came at once to his side and took his hand.Justice Harkins solemnly opened his big book and read, "'By this act of joining hands you do take each other as husband and wife. Therefore, in accordance with the law of the State of New York, I do hereby pronounce you husband and wife.' That's all.""I don't think you'll ever be sorry, Alida," said Holcroft, pressing her hand as he led her to a chair. Watterly again bustled up with congratulations, and then said, "you must all come out now to a little supper, and also remember that it was gotten up in a hurry."The domestic stared at Alida and Holcroft, and then surmising what had taken place, was so excited that she could scarcely wait on the guests.
Holcroft, with the simple tact which genuine kindness usually suggests, was attentive to his bride, but managed, by no slight effort for him, to engage the two men in general conversation, so that Alida might have time to recover her composure. His quiet, matter-of-fact bearing was reassuring in itself. A cup of strong tea and a little old currant wine, which Watterly insisted on her taking, brightened her up not a little. Indeed her weakness was now largely due to the want of nourishment suited to her feeble condition. Moreover, both nerves and mind found relief and rest in the consciousness that the decisive step had been taken. She was no longer shuddering and recoiling from a past in which each day had revealed more disheartening elements. Her face was now toward a future that promised a refuge, security, and even hope.The quiet meal was soon over. Holcroft put a five-dollar bill in the hands of the justice, who filled in a certificate and departed, feeling that the afternoon had not been spent in vain.
"Jim," said Watterly, drawing his friend aside, "you'll want to make some purchases. You know she's only what she wears. How are you off for money?""Well, Tom, you know I didn't expect anything of this kind when--"
"Of course I know it. Will fifty answer?""Yes. You're a good friend. I'll return it in a day or two."
"Return it when you're a mind to. I say, Alida, I want you to take this. Jim Holcroft can't get married and his bride not receive a present from me," and he put ten dollars in her hand.Tears rushed to her eyes as she turned them inquiringly to Holcroft to know what she should do."Now see here, Tom, you've done too much for us already.""Shut up, Jim Holcroft! Don't you end the day by hurting my feelings! It's perfectly right and proper for me to do this. Goodby, Alida. I don't believe you'll ever be sorry you found your way to my hotel."
Alida took his proffered hand, but could only falter, "I--I can never forget."Chapter 20 Uncle Jonathan's Impression of the Bride
"Now, Alida," said Holcroft, as they drove away, "remember that we are two middle-aged, sensible people. At least I'm middle-aged, and fairly sensible, too, I hope. You'll need to buy some things, and I want you to get all you need. Don't stint yourself, and you needn't hurry so as to get tired, for we shall have moonlight and there's no use trying to get home before dark. Is there any particular store which you'd like to go to?""No, sir; only I'd rather go over on the east side of the town where I'm not known."
"That suits me, for it's the side nearest home and I AM known there.""Perhaps--perhaps you also would rather go this evening where you are not known," she said hesitatingly.
"It makes no difference to me. In fact I know of a place where you'll have a good choice at reasonable rates.""I'll go where you wish," she said quietly.They soon entered a large shop together, and the proprietor said pleasantly, "Good evening, Mr. Holcroft.""Good evening, Mr. Jasper. My wife wants to get some things. If you'll be good enough to wait on her, I'll step out to do two or three errands."
The merchant looked curiously at Alida, but was too polite to ask questions or make comments on her very simple purchases. Her old skill and training were of service now. She knew just what she absolutely needed, and bought no more.Holcroft laid in a good stock of groceries and some juicy beef and then returned. When Mr. Jasper gave him his bill, he went to Alida, who was resting, and said in a low voice, "This won't do at all. You can't have bought half enough."
For the first time something like a smile flitted across her face as she replied, "It's enough to begin with. I know.""Really, Mr. Holcroft, I didn't know you were married," said the merchant. "I must congratulate you."
"Well, I am. Thank you. Good night."A few moments later he and his wife were bowling out of town toward the hills. Reaching one of these, the horses came down to a walk and Holcroft turned and said, "Are you very tired, Alida? I'm troubled about you taking this long ride. You have been so sick."