Before she had had it in her arms five ripple coin future newsminutes, her pale cheek wasas red as a rose, and her eyes brighter than diamonds.
When they had all eaten a little, a discussion was observed to begoing on between Rose and her sister. At last Aubertin caught thesewords, "It will be in vain; evebittorrent coin price forecastn you have not influence enough forthat, Rose.""We shall see," was the reply, and Rose put the wing of a partridgeon a plate and rose calmly from her chair. She took the plate andput it on a little work-table by her mother's side. The otherspretended to be all mouths, but they were all ears. The baronesslooked in Rose's face with an air of wonder that was not veryencouraging. Then, as Rose said nothing, she raised heraristocratic hand with a courteous but decided gesture of refusal.Undaunted Rose laid her palm softly on the baroness's shoulder, andsaid to her as firmly as the baroness herself had just spoken,--"Il le veut."The baroness was staggered. Then she looked with moist eyes at thefair young face, then she reflected. At last she said, with anexquisite mixture of politeness and affection, "It is his daughterwho has told me 'Il le veut.' I obey."Rose returning like a victorious knight from the lists, saucilyexultant, and with only one wet eyelash, was solemnly kissed andpetted by Josephine and the doctor.
Thus they loved one another in this great, old, falling house.Their familiarity had no coarse side; a form, not of custom butaffection, it went hand-in-hand with courtesy by day and night.The love of the daughters for their mother had all the tenderness,subtlety, and unselfishness of womanly natures, together with acertain characteristic of the female character. And whither thatone defect led them, and by what gradations, it may be worth thereader's while to observe.The baroness retired to rest early; and she was no sooner gone thanJosephine leaned over to Rose, and told her what their mother hadsaid to the oak-tree. Rose heard this with anxiety; hitherto theyhad carefully concealed from their mother that the governmentclaimed the right of selling the chateau to pay the creditors, etc.;and now both sisters feared the old lady had discovered it somehow,or why that strange thing she had said to the oak-tree? But Dr.Aubertin caught their remarks, and laid down his immortal MS. onFrench insects, to express his hope that they were putting a forcedinterpretation on the baroness's words.
"I think," said he, "she merely meant how short-lived are we allcompared with this ancient oak. I should be very sorry to adopt theother interpretation; for if she knows she can at any moment beexpelled from Beaurepaire, it will be almost as bad for her as thecalamity itself; THAT, I think, would kill her.""Why so?" said Rose, eagerly. "What is this house or that? Mammawill still have her daughters' love, go where she will."Aubertin replied, "It is idle to deceive ourselves; at her age menand women hang to life by their habits; take her away from herchateau, from the little oratory where she prays every day for thedeparted, from her place in the sun on the south terrace, and fromall the memories that surround her here; she would soon pine, anddie."Here the savant seeing a hobby-horse near, caught him and jumped on.He launched into a treatise upon the vitality of human beings, andproved that it is the mind which keeps the body of a man alive forso great a length of time as fourscore years; for that he had in theearlier part of his studies carefully dissected a multitude ofanimals,--frogs, rabbits, dogs, men, horses, sheep, squirrels,foxes, cats, etc.,--and discovered no peculiarity in man's organs toaccount for his singular longevity, except in the brain or organ ofmind. Thence he went to the longevity of men with contented minds,and the rapid decay of the careworn. Finally he succeeded inconvincing them the baroness was so constituted, physically andmentally, that she would never move from Beaurepaire except into hergrave. However, having thus terrified them, he proceeded to consolethem. "You have a friend," said he, "a powerful friend; and here inmy pocket--somewhere--is a letter that proves it."The letter was from Mr. Perrin the notary. It appeared by it thatDr. Aubertin had reminded the said Perrin of his obligations to thelate baron, and entreated him to use all his influence to keep theestate in this ancient family."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.
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.