Oh! the mixture of fbittorrent crypto use caseeeling, when her soft warm palm pressed his.
"Yes. She went off with him luniswap listing bot telegramike a lamb." Snacklit's face was contorted into a difficult smile at the recollection."How long ago was this?"
"Ten minutes. Maybe a bit more.""Then it would be too late to interfere?""That's a safe guess.""Then we won't attempt it. After all, it may be the best way. But I had told you - - ""You didn't know that she'd seen the taxi-man after he'd been knocked on the head?"
"Did she? That was certainly an argument for ruling a double line. But it is a matter on which I must be sure that there has been no further mistake. I should like to see her before I go.""She'd be a queer sight by now."Now a mist began to spread over her eyes, and in it she sawindistinctly the figure of Raynal darting to her sister's side, andraising her head.
She dared not look round on the other side. She heard feet staggeron the floor. She heard a groan, too; but not a word.Horrible silence.With 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.
Then honest Raynal began to be sorry for her, in spite of himself.But there was no time for this. Josephine stirred; and, at the samemoment, a violent knocking came at the door of the apartment, andthe new servant's voice, crying, "Ladies, for Heaven's sake, what isthe matter? The baroness heard a fall--she is getting up--she willbe here. What shall I tell her is the matter?"Raynal was going to answer, but Rose, who had started up at theknocking, put her hand in a moment right before his mouth, and ranto the door. "There is nothing the matter; tell mamma I am comingdown to her directly." She flew back to Raynal in an excitementlittle short of frenzy. "Help me carry her into her own room,"cried she imperiously. Raynal obeyed by instinct; for the fierygirl spoke like a general, giving the word of command, with theenemy in front. He carried the true culprit in his arms, and laidher gently on her bed."Now put IT out of sight--take this, quick, man! quick!" cried Rose.Raynal went to the cradle. "Ah! my poor girl," said he, as helifted it in his arms, "this is a sorry business; to have to hideyour own child from your own mother!""Colonel Raynal," said Rose, "do not insult a poor, despairing girl.
C'est lache.""I am silent, young woman," said Raynal, sternly. "What is to bedone?""Take it down the steps, and give it to Jacintha. Stay, here is acandle; I go to tell mamma you are come; and, Colonel Raynal, Inever injured YOU: if you tell my mother you will stab her to theheart, and me, and may the curse of cowards light on you!--may"--"Enough!" said Raynal, sternly. "Do you take me for a babblinggirl? I love your mother better than you do, or this brat of yourswould not be here. I shall not bring her gray hairs down withsorrow to the grave. I shall speak of this villany to but oneperson; and to him I shall talk with this, and not with the idletongue." And he tapped his sword-hilt with a sombre look ofterrible significance.He carried out the cradle. The child slept sweetly through it all.
Rose darted into Josephine's room, took the key from the inside tothe outside, locked the door, put the key in her pocket, and randown to her mother's room; her knees trembled under her as she went.Meantime, Jacintha, sleeping tranquilly, suddenly felt her throatgriped, and heard a loud voice ring in her ear; then she was lifted,and wrenched, and dropped. She found herself lying clear of thesteps in the moonlight; her head was where her feet had been, andher candle out.
She uttered shriek upon shriek, and was too frightened to get up.She thought it was supernatural; some old De Beaurepaire had servedher thus for sleeping on her post. A struggle took place betweenher fidelity and her superstitious fears. Fidelity conquered.Quaking in every limb, she groped up the staircase for her candle.It was gone.Then a still more sickening fear came over her.What if this was no spirit's work, but a human arm--a strong one--some man's arm?
Her first impulse was to dart up the stairs, and make sure that nocalamity had befallen through her mistimed drowsiness. But, whenshe came to try, her dread of the supernatural revived. She couldnot venture without a light up those stairs, thronged perhaps withangry spirits. She ran to the kitchen. She found the tinderbox,and with trembling hands struck a light. She came back shading itwith her shaky hands; and, committing her soul to the care ofHeaven, she crept quaking up the stairs. Then she heard voicesabove, and that restored her more; she mounted more steadily.Presently she stopped, for a heavy step was coming down. It did notsound like a woman's step. It came further down; she turned to fly.
"Jacintha!" said a deep voice, that in this stone cylinder rang likethunder from a tomb."Oh! saints and angels save me!" yelled Jacintha; and fell on herknees, and hid her head for security; and down went her candlestickclattering on the stone.
"Don't be a fool!" said the iron voice. "Get up and take this."She raised her head by slow degrees, shuddering. A man was holdingout a cradle to her; the candle he carried lighted up his face; itwas Colonel Raynal.She stared at him stupidly, but never moved from her knees, and thecandle began to shake violently in her hand, as she herself trembledfrom head to foot.
Then Raynal concluded she was in the plot; but, scorning to reproacha servant, he merely said, "Well, what do you kneel there for,gaping at me like that? Take this, I tell you, and carry it out ofthe house."He shoved the cradle roughly down into her hands, then turned on hisheel without a word.Jacintha collapsed on the stairs, and the cradle beside her, for allthe power was driven out of her body; she could hardly support herown weight, much less the cradle.She rocked herself, and moaned out, "Oh, what's this? oh, what'sthis?"A cold perspiration came over her whole frame."What could this mean? What on earth had happened?"She took up the candle, for it was lying burning and guttering onthe stairs; scraped up the grease with the snuffers, and by force ofhabit tried to polish it clean with a bit of paper that shookbetween her fingers; she did not know what she was doing. When sherecovered her wits, she took the child out of the cradle, andwrapped it carefully in her shawl; then went slowly down the stairs;and holding him close to her bosom, with a furtive eye, and brainconfused, and a heart like lead, stole away to the tenantlesscottage, where Madame Jouvenel awaited her.
Meantime, Rose, with quaking heart, had encountered the baroness.She found her pale and agitated, and her first question was, "Whatis the matter? what have you been all doing over my head?""Darling mother," replied Rose, evasively, "something has happenedthat will rejoice your heart. Somebody has come home.""My son? eh, no! impossible! We cannot be so happy.""He will be with you directly."The old lady now trembled with joyful agitation.
"In five minutes I will bring him to you. Shall you be dressed? Iwill ring for the girl to help you.""But, Rose, the scream, and that terrible fall. Ah! where isJosephine?""Can't you guess, mamma? Oh, the fall was only the screen; theystumbled over it in the dark.""They! who?""Colonel Raynal, and--and Edouard. I will tell you, mamma, butdon't be angry, or even mention it; they wanted to surprise us.They saw a light burning, and they crept on tiptoe up to thetapestried room, where Josephine and I were, and they did give us agreat fright.""What madness!" cried the baroness, angrily; "and in Josephine'sweak state! Such a surprise might have driven her into a fit.""Yes, it was foolish, but let it pass, mamma. Don't speak of it,for he is so sorry about it."Then Rose slipped out, ordered a fire in the salon, and not in thetapestried room, and the next minute was at her sister's door.
There she found Raynal knocking, and asking Josephine how she was."Pray leave her to me a moment," said she. "I will bring her down toyou. Mamma is waiting for you in the salon."Raynal went down. Rose unlocked the bedroom-door, went in, and, toher horror, found Josephine lying on the floor. She dashed water inher face, and applied every remedy; and at last she came back tolife, and its terrors.
"Save me, Rose! save me--he is coming to kill me--I heard him at thedoor," and she clung trembling piteously to Rose.Then Rose, seeing her terror, was almost glad at the suicidalfalsehood she had told. She comforted and encouraged Josephine and--deceived her. (This was the climax.)"All is well, my poor coward," she cried; "your fears are allimaginary; another has owned the child, and the story is believed.""Another! impossible! He would not believe it.""He does believe it--he shall believe it."Rose then, feeling by no means sure that Josephine, terrified as shewas, would consent to let her sister come to shame to screen her,told her boldly that Jacintha had owned herself the mother of thechild, and that Raynal's only feeling towards HER was pity, andregret at having so foolishly frightened her, weakened as she was byillness. "I told him you had been ill, dear. But how came you onthe ground?""I had come to myself; I was on my knees praying. He tapped. Iheard his voice. I remember no more. I must have fainted againdirectly."Rose had hard work to make her believe that her guilt, as she calledit, was not known; and even then she could not prevail on her tocome down-stairs, until she said, "If you don't, he will come toyou." On that Josephine consented eagerly, and with tremblingfingers began to adjust her hair and her dress for the interview.All this terrible night Rose fought for her sister. She took herdown-stairs to the salon; she put her on the sofa; she sat by herand pressed her hand constantly to give her courage. She told thestory of the surprise her own way, before the whole party, includingthe doctor, to prevent Raynal from being called on to tell it hisway. She laughed at Josephine's absurdity, but excused it onaccount of her feeble health. In short, she threw more and moredust in all their eyes.But by the time when the rising sun came faintly in and lighted thehaggard party, where the deceived were happy, the deceiverswretched, the supernatural strength this young girl had shown wasalmost exhausted. She felt an hysterical impulse to scream andweep: each minute it became more and more ungovernable. Then camean unexpected turn. Raynal after a long and tiring talk with hismother, as he called her, looked at his watch, and in acharacteristic way coolly announced his immediate departure, thisbeing the first hint he had given them that he was not come back forgood.
The baroness was thunderstruck.Rose and Josephine pressed one another's hands, and had much ado notto utter a loud cry of joy.
Raynal explained that he was the bearer of despatches. "I must beoff: not an hour to lose. Don't fret, mother, I shall soon be backagain, if I am not knocked on the head."Raynal took leave of them all. When it came to Rose's turn, he drewher aside and whispered into her ear, "Who is the man?"She started, and seemed dumfounded."Tell me, or I ask my wife.""She has promised me not to betray me: I made her swear. Spare menow, brother; I will tell you all when you come back.""That is a bargain: now hear ME swear: he shall marry you, or heshall die by my hand."He confirmed this by a tremendous oath.
Rose shuddered, but said nothing, only she thought to herself, "I amforewarned. Never shall you know who is the father of that child."He was no sooner gone than the baroness insisted on knowing whatthis private communication between him and Rose was about."Oh," said Rose, "he was only telling me to keep up your courage andJosephine's till he comes back."This was the last lie the poor entangled wretch had to tell thatmorning. The next minute the sisters, exhausted by their terriblestruggle, went feebly, with downcast eyes, along the corridor and upthe staircase to Josephine's room.