"Josephine," she cried, "don't go to bed just yet.""No, love. What are you doing? I want to talk to you. Why did yousay promise? and what did you solana ecosystem redditmean by looking at me so? Shall Icome out to you?""Not just yet," said Rose; she then glided into the corridor, andpassed her mother's room and the doctor's, and listened to see ifall was quiet. While she was gone Josephine opened her door; butnot seeing Rose in the sitting-room, retired again.
Still she did not open her heart to her parents. The baron, aliveat that time, was exasperated against the Republic,eos coin current price and all whoserved it; and, as for the baroness, she was of the old school: apassionate love in a lady's heart before marriage was contrary toher notions of etiquette. Josephine loved Rose very tenderly; butshrank with modest delicacy from making her a confidante offeelings, the bare relation of which leaves the female hearer achild no longer.So she hid her heart, and delicious first love nestled deep in hernature, and thrilled in every secret vein and fibre.
They had parted two years, and he had joined the army of thePyrenees about one month, when suddenly all correspondence ceased onhis part.Restless anxiety rose into terror as this silence continued; andstarting and trembling at every sound, and edging to the window atevery footstep, Josephine expected hourly the tidings of her lover'sdeath.Months rolled on in silence.Then a new torture came. He must not be dead but unfaithful. Atthis all the pride of her race was fired in her.The struggle between love and ire was almost too much for nature:
violently gay and moody by turns she alarmed both her mother and thegood Dr. Aubertin. The latter was not, I think, quite withoutsuspicion of the truth; however, he simply prescribed change of airand place; she must go to Frejus, a watering-place distant aboutfive leagues. Mademoiselle de Beaurepaire yielded a languid assent.To her all places were alike.Alida could not help overhearing the conversation, and she now glided into the room and stood by her husband's side.
"James," she said, "won't you do me a favor, a great kindness?"Mrs. Weeks raised her eyes and looked wonderingly at this dreadful woman, against whom all Oakville was talking."I know what you wish, Alida," he replied sternly, "but I can't do it. This is a case for justice. This woman's son was the leader of that vile crowd that insulted you last night. I can forgive his injuring me, but not the words he used about you. Moreover, when I was alone and struggling to keep my home, Mrs. Weeks took part with her husband in imposing on me their fraud of a cousin and in tricking me out of honest money. Any woman with a heart in her breast would have tried to help a man situated as I was. No, it's a clear case of justice, and her son shall go to jail."Mrs. Weeks wailed afresh at this final sentence. Holcroft was amazed to see his wife drop on her knees beside his chair. He raised her instantly. "Don't do such a thing as that," he said huskily.
Without removing her pleading eyes from his face she asked gently, "Who told us to forgive as we would be forgiven? James, I shall be very unhappy if you don't grant this mother's prayer."He tried to turn away, but she caught his hand and held his eyes with hers. "Alida," he said in strong agitation, "you heard the vile, false words that Timothy Weeks said last night. They struck you down like a blow. Can you forgive him?"
"Yes, and I plead with you to forgive him. Grant me my wish, James; I shall be so much happier, and so will you.""Well, Mrs. Weeks, now you know what kind of a woman your son came to insult. You may tell your neighbors that there's one Christian in Oakville. I yield to Mrs. Holcroft, and will take no further action in the affair if we are let alone."Mrs. Weeks was not a bad woman at heart, and she had received a wholesome lesson. She came and took Alida's hand as she said, "Yes, you are a Christian--a better woman than I've been, but I aint so mean and bad but what, when I see my fault, I am sorry and can ask forgiveness. I do ask your forgiveness, Mr. Holcroft. I've been ashamed of myself ever since you brought my cousin back. I thought she would try, when she had the chance you gave her, but she seems to have no sense.""There, there! Let bygones be bygones," said the farmer in embarrassment. "I've surrendered. Please don't say anything more."
"You've got a kind heart, in spite--""Oh, come now! Please quit, or I'll begin to swear a little to keep up the reputation my neighbors have given me. Go home and tell Tim to brace up and try to be a man. When I say I'm done with a grudge, I AM done. You and Mrs. Holcroft can talk all you like, but please excuse me," and with more than most men's horror of a scene, he escaped precipitately."Sit down, Mrs. Weeks," said Alida kindly."Well, I will. I can't say much to excuse myself or my folks--"
"You've already said everything, Mrs. Weeks," interrupted Alida gently; "you've said you are sorry."Mrs. Weeks stared a moment, and then resumed sententiously, "Well, I've heard more gospel in that remark than if I'd gone to church. And I couldn't go to church, I could never have gone there again or held my head up anywhere if--if--"
"That's all past and gone," said Alida, smiling. "When Mr. Holcroft says anything, you may depend on it.""Well, God bless you for intercedin'--you had so much to forgive. Nobody shall ever speak a word against you again while I've got breath to answer. I wish you'd let me come and see you sometimes."
"Whenever you wish, if you care to visit one who has had so much--so much trouble.""I see now that's all the more reason I should come, for if it hadn't been for you, I'd have been in bitter trouble myself. We've been worse than heathen, standin' off and talking against you. Oh, I've had a lesson I won't forget! Well, I must hurry home, for I left Timothy and Lemuel in a dreadful state."Seeing the farmer in the barn as she was passing, she rushed to him. "You've got to shake hands with me, Mr. Holcroft. Your wife IS a good woman, and she's a lady, too. Anyone with half an eye can see she's not one of the common sort."The farmer shook the poor woman's hand good-naturedly and said heartily, "That's so! All right, meeting's over. Goodbye." Then he turned to his work and chuckled, "That's what Tom Watterly said. Thank the Lord! She ISN'T of the common sort. I've got to brace up and be more of a man as well as Tim Weeks."In spite of the pain in his head, Alida's words proved true. He was happier than he had been in many a long day. He had the glow which follows a generous act, and the thought that he had pleased a sweet little woman who somehow seemed very attractive to him that May morning; at the same time the old Adam in his nature led to a sneaking satisfaction that he had laid on the hickory so unsparingly the evening before.Alida uttered a low, happy laugh as she heard him whistling "Coronation" in jig time, and she hustled away the breakfast things with the eagerness of a girl, that she might be ready to read to him when he came in.
Chapter 27 Farm and Farmer BewitchedThe day grew warm, and having finished her tasks indoors and cared for the poultry, Alida brought a chair out in the porch. Her eyes were dreamy with a vague, undefined happiness. The landscape in itself was cause for exquisite pleasure, for it was an ideal day of the apple-blossoming period. The old orchard back of the barn looked as if pink-and-white clouds had settled upon it, and scattered trees near and far were exhaling their fragrance. The light breeze which fanned her cheek and bent the growing rye in an adjacent field was perfumed beyond the skill of art. Not only were her favorite meadow larks calling to each other, but the thrushes had come and she felt that she had never heard such hymns as they were singing. A burst of song from the lilac bush under the parlor window drew her eyes thither, and there was the paternal redbreast pouring out the very soul of ecstasy. From the nest beneath him rose the black head and yellow beak of his brooding mate. "How contented and happy she looks!" Alida murmured, "how happy they both are! And the secret of it is HOME. And to think that I, who was a friendless waif, am at home, also! At home with Eden-like beauty and peace before my eyes. But if it hadn't been for him, and if he were not brave, kind, and true to all he says--" and she shuddered at a contrast that rose before her fancy.
She could now scarcely satisfy herself that it was only gratitude which filled her heart with a strange, happy tumult. She had never been conscious of such exaltation before. It is true, she had learned to cherish a strong affection for the man whom she had believed to be her husband, but chiefly because he had seemed kind and she had an affectionate disposition. Until within the last few hours, her nature had never been touched and awakened in its profoundest depths. She had never known before nor had she idealized the manhood capable of evoking the feelings which now lighted her eyes and gave to her face the supreme charm and beauty of womanhood. In truth, it was a fitting day and time for the birth of a love like hers, simple, all-absorbing, and grateful. It contained no element not in harmony with that May Sunday morning.Holcroft came and sat on the steps below her. She kept her eyes on the landscape, for she was consciously enough on her guard now. "I rather guess you think, Alida, that you are looking at a better picture than any artist fellow could paint?" he remarked.
"Yes," she replied hesitatingly, "and the picture seems all the more lovely and full of light because the background is so very dark. I've been thinking of what happened here last night and what might have happened, and how I felt then.""You feel better--different now, don't you? You certainly look so."
"Yes!--You made me very happy by yielding to Mrs. Weeks.""Oh! I didn't yield to her at all.""Very well, have it your own way, then.""I think you had it your way."
"Are you sorry?""Do I look so? How did you know I'd be happier if I gave in?"
"Because, as you say, I'm getting better acquainted with you. YOU couldn't help being happier for a generous act.""I wouldn't have done it, though, if it hadn't been for you."
"I'm not so sure about that.""I am. You're coming to make me feel confoundedly uncomfortable in my heathenish life."
"I wish I could.""I never had such a sermon in my life as you gave me this morning. A Christian act like yours is worth a year of religious talk."She looked at him wistfully for a moment and then asked, a little abruptly, "Mr. Holcroft, have you truly forgiven that Weeks family?""Oh, yes! I suppose so. I've forgiven the old lady, anyhow. I've shaken hands with her."
"If her husband and son should come and apologize and say they were sorry, would you truly and honestly forgive them?""Certainly! I couldn't hold a grudge after that. What are you aiming at?" and he turned and looked inquiringly into her face.
It was flushed and tearful in its eager, earnest interest. "Don't you see?" she faltered.He shook his head, but was suddenly and strangely moved by her expression.
"Why, Mr. Holcroft, if you can honestly forgive those who have wronged you, you ought to see how ready God is to forgive."He fairly started to his feet so vividly the truth came home to him, illumined, as it was, by a recent and personal experience. After a moment, he slowly sat down again and said, with a long breath, "That was a close shot, Alida."