"Don't speak that way," she said, almost harshly, unftt price gbpder the tension of her feelings. "I--I can't stand it. Speak and look as you did before you went away."
Alida now understood the child and laughed aloud. "Yosolana beach school district reopeningu are right," she said. "I won't ask you to do anything contrary to his wishes. Now tell me, Jane, what other clothes have you besides those you are wearing?"It did not take the girl long to inventory her scanty wardrobe, and then Alida rapidly made out a list of what was needed immediately. "Wait here," she said, and putting on a pretty straw hat, one of her recent purchases, she started for the barn.
Holcroft had his wagon and team almost ready when Alida joined him, and led the way to the floor between the sweet-smelling hay-mows."One thing leads to another," she began, looking at him a little deprecatingly. "You must have noticed the condition of Jane's clothes.""She does look like a little scarecrow, now I come to think of it," he admitted."Yes, she's not much better off than I was," Alida returned, with downcast eyes and rising color.Her flushing face was so pretty under the straw hat, and the dark mow as a background brought out her figure so finely that he thought of the picture again and laughed aloud for pleasure. She looked up in questioning surprise, thus adding a new grace.
"I wish that artist fellow was here now," he exclaimed. "He could make another picture that would suit me better than the one I saw in town.""What nonsense!" she cried, quickly averting her face from his admiring scrutiny. "Come, I'm here to talk business and you've no time to waste. I've made out a list of what the child actually must have to be respectable.""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.Camille Dujardin slept that night at a roadside inn about twelvemiles from Beaurepaire, and not more than six from the town wherethe wedding was to take place next day.It was a close race.
And the racers all unconscious of each other, yet spurred impartiallyby events that were now hurrying to a climax.Chapter 7
The next day at sharp nine two carriages were at the door.But the ladies were not ready. Thus early in the campaign did theythrow all into disorder. For so nicely had Raynal timed the severalevents that this threw him all into confusion. He stamped backwardsand forwards, and twisted his mustaches, and swore. This enforcedunpunctuality was a new torture to him. Jacintha told them he wasangry, and that made them nervous and flurried, and their fingersstrayed wildly among hooks and eyes, and all sorts of fastenings;they were not ready till half-past nine. Conscious they deserved ascolding, they sent Josephine down first to mollify. She dawnedupon the honest soldier so radiant, so dazzling in her snowy dress,with her coronet of pearls (an heirloom), and her bridal veilparted, and the flush of conscious beauty on her cheek, that insteadof scolding her, he actually blurted out, "Well! by St. Denis it wasworth waiting half an hour for."He recovered a quarter of an hour by making the driver gallop. Thenoccasional shrieks issued from the carriage that held the baroness.
That ancient lady feared annihilation: she had not come down from agalloping age.They drove into the town, drew up at the mayor's house, werereceived with great ceremony by that functionary and Picard, andentered the house.When their carriages rattled into the street from the north side,Colonel Dujardin had already entered it from the south, and wasriding at a foot's pace along the principal street. The motion ofhis horse now shook him past endurance. He dismounted at an inn afew doors from the mayor's house, and determined to do the rest ofthe short journey on foot. The landlord bustled about himobsequiously. "You are faint, colonel; you have travelled too far.Let me order you an excellent breakfast.""No. I want a carriage; have you one?""I have two; but, unluckily, they are both engaged for the day, andby people of distinction. Commandant Raynal is married to-day.""Ah! I wish him joy," said Camille, heartily. He then asked thelandlord to open the window, as he felt rather faint. The landlordinsisted on breakfast, and Camille sat down to an omelet and abottle of red wine. Then he lay awhile near the window, revived bythe air, and watched the dear little street he had not seen foryears. He felt languid, but happy, celestially happy.She was a few doors from him, and neither knew it.A pen was put into her white hand, and in another moment she hadsigned a marriage contract.
"Now to the church," cried the baroness, gayly. To get to thechurch, they must pass by the window Camille reclined at.Chapter 8
"Oh! there's no time for that," said Raynal. And as the baronesslooked horrified and amazed, Picard explained: "The state marriesits citizens now, with reason: since marriage is a civil contract.""Marriage a civil contract!" repeated the baroness. "What, is itthen no longer one of the holy sacraments? What horrible impietyshall we come to next? Unhappy France! Such a contract would neverbe a marriage in my eyes: and what would become of an union theChurch had not blessed?""Madame," said Picard, "the Church can bless it still; but it isonly the mayor here that can DO it."All this time Josephine was blushing scarlet, and looking this wayand that, with a sort of instinctive desire to fly and hide, nomatter where, for a week or so."Haw! haw! haw!" roared Raynal; "here is a pretty mother. Wants herdaughter to be unlawfully married in a church, instead of lawfullyin a house. Give me the will!""Look here, mother-in-law: I have left Beaurepaire to my lawfulwife.""Otherwise," put in Picard, "in case of death, it would pass to hisheir-at-law.""And HE would turn you all out, and that does not suit me. Nowthere stands the only man who can make mademoiselle my LAWFUL wife.
So quick march, monsieur the mayor, for time and Bonaparte wait forno man.""Stay a minute, young people," said the mayor. "We should sootherespectable prejudices, not crush them. Madam, I am at least as oldas you, and have seen many changes. I perfectly understand yourfeelings.""Ah, monsieur! oh!""Calm yourself, dear madam; the case is not so bad as you think. Itis perfectly true that in republican France the civil magistratealone can bind French citizens in lawful wedlock. But this does notannihilate the religious ceremony. You can ask the Church'sblessing on my work; and be assured you are not the only one whoretains that natural prejudice. Out of every ten couples that Imarry, four or five go to church afterwards and perform the ancientceremonies. And they do well. For there before the altar thepriest tells them what it is not my business to dilate upon--thegrave moral and religious duties they have undertaken along withthis civil contract. The state binds, but the Church still blesses,and piously assents to that"--"From which she has no power to dissent.""Monsieur Picard, do you consider it polite to interrupt the chiefmagistrate of the place while he is explaining the law to acitizen?"(This closed Picard.)"I married a daughter last year," continued the worthy mayor."What, after this fashion?""I married her myself, as I will marry yours, if you will trust mewith her. And after I have made them one, there is nothing toprevent them adjourning to the church.""I beg your pardon," cried Raynal, "there are two things to preventit: a couple that wait for no man: Time and Bonaparte. Come, sir;marry us, and have done with it."The mayor assented. He invited Josephine to stand before him. Shetrembled and wept a little: Rose clung to her and wept, and the goodmayor married the parties off hand.
"Is that all?" asked the baroness; "it is terribly soon done.""It is done effectively, madam," said the mayor, with a smile."Permit me to tell you that his Holiness the Pope cannot undo mywork."Picard grinned slyly, and whispered something into Raynal's ear."Oh! indeed," said Raynal aloud and carelessly. "Come, MadameRaynal, to breakfast: follow us, the rest of you."They paired, and followed the bride and bridegroom into thebreakfast-room.The light words Picard whispered were five in number.
Now if the mayor had not snubbed Picard just before, he would haveuttered those jocose but true words aloud. There was no particularreason why he should not. And if he had,--The threads of the web oflife, how subtle they are! The finest cotton of Manchester, thefiner meshes of the spider, seem three-inch cables by comparisonwith those moral gossamers which vulgar eyes cannot see at all, the"somethings, nothings," on which great fates have hung.It was a cheerful breakfast, thanks to Raynal, who would be in highspirits, and would not allow a word of regret from any one. MadameRaynal sat by his side, looking up at him every now and then withinnocent admiration. A merry wedding breakfast.
But if men and women could see through the walls of houses!Two doors off sat the wounded colonel alone, recruiting the smallremnant of his sore tried strength, that he might struggle on toBeaurepaire, and lose in one moment years of separation, pain,prison, anguish, martyrdom, in one great gush of joy withoutcompare.
The wedding breakfast was ended. The time was drawing near to part.There was a silence. It was broken by Madame Raynal. She askedRaynal very timidly if he had reflected. "On what?" said he.
"About taking me to Egypt.""No: I have not given it a thought since I said 'no.'""Yet permit me to say that it is my duty to be by your side, myhusband." And she colored at this word, being the first time shehad ever used it. Raynal was silent. She murmured on, "I would notbe an encumbrance to you, sir: I should not be useless. Gentlemen,I could add more to his comfort than he gives me credit for."Warm assent of the mayor and notary to this hint."I give you credit for being an angel," said Raynal warmly.He hesitated. Rose was trembling, her fork shaking in her poorlittle hand.She cast a piteous glance at him. He saw it.
"You shall go with me next time," said he. "Let us speak of it nomore."Josephine bowed her head. "At least give me something to do for youwhile you are away. Tell me what I can do for my absent friend toshow my gratitude, my regard, my esteem.""Well, let me think. I saw a plain gray dress at Beaurepaire.""Yes, monsieur. My gray silk, Rose.""I like that dress.""Do you? Then the moment I reach home after losing you I shall putit on, and it shall be my constant wear. I see; you are right; graybecomes a wife whose husband is not dead, but is absent, and alas!in hourly danger.""Now look at that!" cried Raynal to the company. "That is her allover: she can see six meanings where another would see but one. Inever thought of that, I swear. I like modest colors, that is all.
My mother used to be all for modest wives wearing modest colors.""I am of her mind, sir. Is there nothing more difficult you will beso good as give me to do?""No; there is only one order more, and that will be easier still tosuch a woman as you. I commit to your care the name of Raynal. Itis not so high a name as yours, but it is as honest. I am proud ofit: I am jealous of it. I shall guard it for you in Egypt: youguard it in France for me.""With my life," cried Josephine, lifting her eyes and her hand toheaven.Soon after this Raynal ordered his charger.
The baroness began to cry. "The young people may hope to see youagain," said she; "but there are two chances against your poor oldmother.""Courage, mother!" cried the stout soldier. "No, no; you won't playme such a trick: once is enough for that game.""Brother!" cried Rose, "do not go without kissing your littlesister, who loves you and thanks you." He kissed her. "Bravo,generous soul!" she cried, with her arms round his neck. "Godprotect you, and send you back safe to us!""Amen!" cried all present by one impulse, even the cold notary.Raynal's mustache quivered. He kissed Josephine hastily on thebrow, the baroness on both cheeks; shook the men's hands warmly buthastily, and strode out without looking behind him. He was movedfor once.