He was coming to Beaurepabittorrent test fileire to stay a month, and was to arrive thatvery day.
Holcroft strode rapidly up the lane to the deep solitude at the edge of his woodland. Beneath him lay the farm and the home that he had married to keep, yet now, without a second's hesitation, he would part with all to call his wife WIFE. How little the name now satisfied him, without the sweet realities of which the word is significant! The term and relation had become a mocking mirage. He almost cursed himself that he had exulted over his increasing bank account and general prosperity, and had complacently assured himself that she was doing just what he had asked, without any sentimental nonsense. "How could I expect it to turn out otherwise?" he thought. "From the first I made her think I hadn't a soul for anything but crops and money. Now that she's getting over her trouble and away from it, she's more able to see just what I am, or at least what she naturally thinks I am. But she doesn't understand me--I scarcely understand myself. I long to be a different man in every way, and not to work and live like an ox. Here are some of my crops almost ready to gather and they never were better, yet I've no heart for the work. Seems to me it'll wear me out if I have to carry this load of trouble all the time. I thought my old burdens hard to bear; I thought I was lonely before, but it was nothing compared with living near one you love, but from whom you are cut off by something you can't see, yet must feel to the bottom of your heart."tron coin price in pakistanHis distraught eyes rested on the church spire, fading in the twilight, and the little adjoining graveyard. "Oh, Bessie," he groaned, "why did you die? I was good enough for YOU. Oh! That all had gone on as it was and I had never known--"
He stopped, shook his head, and was silent. At last he signed, "I DID love Bessie. I love and respect her memory as much as ever. But somehow I never felt as I do now. All was quiet and matter-of-fact in those days, yet it was real and satisfying. I was content to live on, one day like another, to the end of my days. If I hadn't been so content it would be better for me now.I'd have a better chance if I had read more, thought more, and fitted myself to be more of a companion for a woman like Alida. If I knew a great deal and could talk well, she might forget I'm old and homely. Bessie was so true a friend that she would wish, if she knows, what I wish. I thought I needed a housekeeper; I find I need more than all else such a wife as Alida could be--one that could help me to be a man instead of a drudge, a Christian instead of a discontented and uneasy unbeliever. At one time, it seemed that she was leading me along so naturally and pleasantly that I never was so happy; then all at once it came to me that she was doing it from gratitude and a sense of duty, and the duty grows harder for her every day. Well, there seems nothing for it now but to go on as we began and hope that the future will bring us more in sympathy."Chapter 31 ＂Never!＂For the next two or three days Jane had no occasion to observe that Alida was in the least degree obtrusive in her attention to the farmer. She was assiduous in her work and more diligent than ever in her conscious efforts to do what she thought he wished; but she was growing pale, constrained, and silent. She struggled heroically to appear as at first, but without much success, for she could not rally from the wound he had given her so unintentionally and which Jane's words had deepened. She almost loathed herself under her association with Mrs. Mumpson, and her morbid thoughts had hit upon a worse reason for Holcroft's apparent repulsion. As she questioned everything in the sleepless hours that followed the interview in the garden, she came to the miserable conclusion that he had discovered her love, and that by suggestion, natural to his mind, it reminded him of her pitiful story. He could be sorry for her and be kind; he could even be her honest friend and protector as a wronged and unhappy woman, but he could not love one with a history like hers and did not wish her to love him. This seemed an adequate explanation of the change in their relations, but she felt that it was one under which her life would wither and her heart break.This promised to be worse than what she had dreaded at the almshouse--the facing the world alone and working till she died among strangers. The fact that they were strangers would enable her to see their averted faces with comparative indifference, but that the man to whom she had yielded her whole heart should turn away was intolerable. She felt that he could not do this willingly but only under the imperious instincts of his nature--that he was virtually helpless in the matter. There was an element in these thoughts which stung her woman's soul, and, as we have said, she could not rally.
Holcroft never suspected her morbid thoughts, and his loyal, loving heart was incapable of dreaming of them. He only grew more unhappy as he saw the changes in her, for he regarded himself as the cause. Yet he was perplexed and unable to account for her rapidly increasing pallor while he continued so kind, considerate, and especially so unobtrusive. He assuredly thought he was showing a disposition to give her all the time she wished to become reconciled to her lot. "Thunder!" he said to himself, "we can't grow old together without getting used to each other."On Saturday noon, at dinner, he remarked, "I shall have to begin haying on Monday and so I'll take everything to town this afternoon, for I won't be able to go again for some days. Is there anything you'd like me to get, Mrs. Holcroft?""So this is the secret you were hiding from me! This secret has notkilled you all. Oh! I shall not live under its shame so long as youhave. Chateau of Beaurepaire--nest of treason, ingratitude, andimmodesty--I loathe you as much as once I loved you. I will go andhide my head, and die elsewhere.""Stay, madame!" said he, in a voice whose depth and dignity was suchthat it seemed impossible to disobey it. "It was sudden--I wasshaken--but I am myself again.""Oh, show some pity!" cried Rose.
"I shall try to be just."There was a long, trembling silence; and during that silence andterrible agitation, one figure stood firm among those quaking,beating hearts, like a rock with the waves breaking round it--theMAN OF PRINCIPLE among the creatures of impulse.He raised Josephine from her knees, and placed her all limp andpowerless in an arm-chair. To her frenzy had now succeeded asickness and feebleness like unto death."Widow Dujardin," said he, in a broken voice, "listen to me."She moaned a sort of assent."Your mistake has been not trusting me. I was your friend, and nota selfish friend. I was not enough in love with you to destroy yourhappiness. Besides, I despise that sort of love. If you had toldme all, I would have spared you this misery. By the present law,civil contracts of marriage can be dissolved by mutual consent."At this the baroness uttered some sign of surprise.
"Ah!" continued Raynal, sadly, "you are aristocrats, and cannot keeppace with the times. This very day our mere contract shall beformally dissolved. Indeed, it ceases to exist since both partiesare resolved to withdraw from it. So, if you married Dujardin in achurch, you are Madame Dujardin at this moment, and his child islegitimate. What does she say?"This question was to Rose, for what Josephine uttered sounded like amere articulate moan. But Rose's quick ear had caught words, andshe replied, all in tears, "My poor sister is blessing you, sir. Weall bless you.""She does not understand my position," said Raynal. He then walkedup to Josephine, and leaning over her arm, and speaking rather loud,under the impression that her senses were blunted by grief, he said,"Look here: Colonel Dujardin, your husband, deliberately, and withhis eyes open, sacrificed his life for me, and for his own heroicsense of honor. Now, it is my turn. If that hero stood here, andasked me for all the blood in my body, I would give it him. He isgone; but, dying for me, he has left me his widow and his child;they remain under my wing. To protect them is my pride, and my onlyconsolation. I am going to the mayor to annul our unlucky contractin due form, and make us brother and sister instead. But," turningto the baroness, "don't you think to escape me as your daughter hasdone: no, no, old lady, once a mother, always a mother. Stir fromyour son's home if you dare!"And with these words, in speaking which his voice had recovered itsiron firmness, he strode out at the door, superb in manhood andprinciple, and every eye turned with wonder and admiration afterhim. Even when he was gone they gazed at the door by which acreature so strangely noble had disappeared.The baroness was about to follow him without taking any notice ofJosephine. But Rose caught her by the gown. "O mother, speak topoor Josephine: bid her live."The baroness only made a gesture of horror and disgust, and turnedher back on them both.
Josephine, who had tottered up from her seat at Rose's words, sankheavily down again, and murmured, "Ah! the grave holds all that loveme now."Rose ran to her side. "Cruel Josephine! what, do not I love you?Mother, will you not help me persuade her to live? Oh! if she dies,I will die too; you will kill both your children."Stern and indignant as the baroness was, yet these words pierced herheart. She turned with a piteous, half apologetic air to Edouardand Aubertin. "Gentlemen," said she, "she has been foolish, notguilty. Heaven pardons the best of us. Surely a mother may forgiveher child." And with this nature conquered utterly; and she heldout her arms, wide, wide, as is a mother's heart. Her two erringchildren rushed sobbing violently into them; and there was not a dryeye in the room for a long time.After this, Josephine's heart almost ceased to beat. Fear andmisgivings, and the heavy sense of deceit gnawing an honorableheart, were gone. Grief reigned alone in the pale, listless,bereaved widow.The marriage was annulled before the mayor; and, three daysafterwards, Raynal, by his influence, got the consummated marriageformally allowed in Paris.
With a delicacy for which one would hardly have given him credit, henever came near Beaurepaire till all this was settled; but hebrought the document from Paris that made Josephine the widowDujardin, and her boy the heir of Beaurepaire; and the moment shewas really Madame Dujardin he avoided her no longer; and he became acomfort to her instead of a terror.The dissolution of the marriage was a great tie between them. Somuch that, seeing how much she looked up to Raynal, the doctor saidone day to the baroness, "If I know anything of human nature, theywill marry again, provided none of you give her a hint which way herheart is turning."They, who have habituated themselves to live for others, can sufferas well as do great things. Josephine kept alive. A passion suchas hers, in a selfish nature, must have killed her.Even as it was, she often said, "It is hard to live."Then they used to talk to her of her boy. Would she leave him--Camille's boy--without a mother? And these words were never spokento her quite in vain.Her mother forgave her entirely, and loved her as before. Who couldbe angry with her long? The air was no longer heavy with lies.
Wretched as she was, she breathed lighter. Joy and hope were gone.Sorrowful peace was coming. When the heart comes to this, nothingbut Time can cure; but what will not Time do? What wounds have Iseen him heal! His cures are incredible.
The little party sat one day, peaceful, but silent and sad, in thePleasaunce, under the great oak.Two soldiers came to the gate. They walked feebly, for one waslame, and leaned upon the other, who was pale and weak, and leanedupon a stick.
"Soldiers," said Raynal, "and invalided.""Give them food and wine," said Josephine.Rose went towards them; but she had scarcely taken three steps ereshe cried out,--"It is Dard! it is poor Dard! Come in, Dard, come in."Dard limped towards them, leaning upon Sergeant La Croix. A bit ofDard's heel had been shot away, and of La Croix's head.Rose ran to the kitchen."Jacintha, bring out a table into the Pleasaunce, and something fortwo guests to eat."The soldiers came slowly to the Pleasaunce, and were welcomed, andinvited to sit down, and received with respect; for France even inthat day honored the humblest of her brave.Soon Jacintha came out with a little round table in her hands, andaffected a composure which was belied by her shaking hands and herglowing cheek.After a few words of homely welcome--not eloquent, but very sincere--she went off again with her apron to her eyes. She reappeared withthe good cheer, and served the poor fellows with radiant zeal.
"What regiment?" asked Raynal.Dard was about to answer, but his superior stopped him severely;then, rising with his hand to his forehead, he replied, with pride,"Twenty-fourth brigade, second company. We were cut up atPhilipsburg, and incorporated with the 12th."Raynal instantly regretted his question; for Josephine's eye fixedon Sergeant La Croix with an expression words cannot paint. Yet sheshowed more composure, real or forced, than he expected.
"Heaven sends him," said she. "My friend, tell me, were you--ah!"Colonel Raynal interfered hastily. "Think what you do. He can tellyou nothing but what we know, not so much, in fact, as we know; for,now I look at him, I think this is the very sergeant we found lyinginsensible under the bastion. He must have been struck before thebastion was taken even.""I was, colonel, I was. I remember nothing but losing my senses,and feeling the colors go out of my hand.""There, you see, he knows nothing," said Raynal."It was hot work, colonel, under that bastion, but it was hotter tothe poor fellows that got in. I heard all about it from PrivateDard here.""So, then, it was you who carried the colors?""Yes, I was struck down with the colors of the brigade in my hand,"cried La Croix.
"See how people blunder about, everything; they told me the colonelcarried the colors.""Why, of course he did. You don't think our colonel, the fightingcolonel, would let me hold the colors of the brigade so long as hewas alive. No; he was struck by a Prussian bullet, and he had justtime to hand the colors to me, and point with his sword to thebastion, and down he went. It was hot work, I can tell you. I didnot hold them long, not thirty seconds, and if we could know theirhistory, they passed through more hands than that before they got tothe Prussian flag-staff."Raynal suddenly rose, and walked rapidly to and fro, with his handsbehind him."Poor colonel!" continued La Croix. "Well, I love to think he diedlike a soldier, and not like some of my poor comrades, hashed toatoms, and not a volley fired over him. I hope they put a stoneover him, for he was the best soldier and the best general in thearmy.""O sir!" cried Josephine, "there is no stone even to mark the spotwhere he fell," and she sobbed despairingly.
"Why, how is this, Private Dard?" inquired La Croix, sternly.Dard apologized for his comrade, and touching his own headsignificantly told them that since his wound the sergeant's memorywas defective."Now, sergeant, didn't I tell you the colonel must have got thebetter of his wound, and got into the battery?""It's false, Private Dard; don't I know our colonel better thanthat? Would ever he have let those colors out of his hand, if therehad been an ounce of life left in him?""He died at the foot of the battery, I tell you.""Then why didn't we find him?"Here Jacintha put in a word with the quiet subdued meaning of herclass. "I can't find that anybody ever saw the colonel dead.""They did not find him, because they did not look for him," saidSergeant La Croix."God forgive you, sergeant!" said Dard, with some feeling. "Notlook for OUR COLONEL! We turned over every body that lay there,--full thirty there were,--and you were one of them.""Only thirty! Why, we settled more Prussians than that, I'llswear.""Oh! they carried off their dead.""Ay! but I don't see why they should carry our colonel off. Hisepaulets was all the thieves could do any good with. Stop! yet Ido, Private Dard; I have a horrible suspicion. No, I have not; itis a certainty. What! don't you see, ye ninny? Thunder andthousands of devils, here's a disgrace. Dogs of Prussians! theyhave got our colonel, they have taken him prisoner.""O God bless them!" cried Josephine; "O God bless the mouth thattells me so! O sir, I am his wife, his poor heart-broken wife. Youwould not be so cruel as to mock my despair. Say again that he maybe alive, pray, say it again!""His wife! Private Dard, why didn't you tell me? You tell menothing. Yes, my pretty lady, I'll say it again, and I'll prove it.
Here is an enemy in full retreat, would they encumber themselveswith the colonel? If he was dead, they'd have whipped off hisepaulets, and left him there. Alive? why not? Look at me: I amalive, and I was worse wounded than he was. They took me for dead,you see. Courage, madame! you will see him again, take an oldsoldier's word for it. Dard, attention! this is the colonel'swife."She gazed on the speaker like one in a trance.Every eye and every soul had been so bent on Sergeant La Croix thatit was only now Raynal was observed to be missing. The next minutehe came riding out of the stable-yard, and went full gallop down theroad.
"Ah!" cried Rose, with a burst of hope; "he thinks so too; he hashopes. He is gone somewhere for information. Perhaps to Paris."Josephine's excitement and alternations of hope and fear were nowalarming. Rose held her hand, and implored her to try and be calmtill they could see Raynal.Just before dark he came riding fiercely home. Josephine flew downthe stairs. Raynal at sight of her forgot all his caution. Hewaved his cocked hat in the air. She fell on her knees and thankedGod. He gasped out,--"Prisoner--exchanged for two Prussian lieutenants--sent home--theysay he is in France!"The tears of joy gushed in streams from her.
Some days passed in hope and joy inexpressible; but the good doctorwas uneasy for Josephine. She was always listening withsupernatural keenness and starting from her chair, and every fibreof her lovely person seemed to be on the quiver.Nor was Rose without a serious misgiving. Would husband and wifeever meet? He evidently looked on her as Madame Raynal, and made ita point of honor to keep away from Beaurepaire.
They had recourse to that ever-soothing influence--her child.Madame Jouvenel was settled in the village, and Josephine visitedher every day, and came back often with red eyes, but alwayssoothed.One day Rose and she went to Madame Jouvenel, and, entering thehouse without ceremony, found the nurse out, and no one watching thechild."How careless!" said Rose.
Josephine stopped eagerly to kiss him. But instead of kissing him,she uttered a loud cry. There was a locket hanging round his neck.It was a locket containing some of Josephine's hair and Camille's.
She had given it him in the happy days that followed their marriage.She stood gasping in the middle of the room. Madame Jouvenel camerunning in soon after. Josephine, by a wonderful effort overherself, asked her calmly and cunningly,--"Where is the gentleman who put this locket round my child's neck?
I want to speak with him."Madame Jouvenel stammered and looked confused."A soldier--an officer?--come, tell me!""Woman," cried Rose, "why do you hesitate?""What am I to do?" said Madame Jouvenel. "He made me swear never tomention his coming here. He goes away, or hides whenever you come.