"Ah!" cried Raynal, triumphantly; "but no," said he, altering histone, "let us leave that sort of argument to lawyers. I have come agood many miles to fight with you, general; and now you must decideto pay me this little compliment on my arrival, or put a bitterafcontract address of chainlinkfront on me--choose!"While the old general hesitated, Camille replied, "Since you takethat tone there can be but one answer. You are too great a creditto the French army for even an apparent slight to be put on youhere. The rule, I think, is, that one of the privates shall holdthe hat.--Hallo! Private Dard, come here--there--hold this hat.""Yes, colonel.--Lord, here is my young mistress's husband!""Silence!"And they began to draw, and, in the act of drawing, a change ofmanner was first visible in these gay and ardent spirits.
He went over the past very briefly until he came to the death of his wife. There was simple and homely pathos in the few sethereum blockchain rollbackentences with which he referred to this event. Then more fully he enlarged upon his efforts and failure to keep house with hired help. Unconsciously, he had taken the best method to enlist her sympathy. The secluded cottage and hillside farm became realities to her fancy. She saw how the man's heart clung to his home, and his effort to keep it touched her deeply."Oh!" she thought, "I do wish there was some way for me to go there. The loneliness of the place which drove others away is the chief attraction for me. Then it would be pleasant to work for such a man and make his home comfortable for him. It's plain from his words and looks that he's as honest and straightforward as the day is long. He only wants to keep his home and make his living in peace."
As he had talked her nervous embarrassment passed away, and the deep sense of her own need was pressing upon her again. She saw that he also was in great need. His business talk was revealing deep trouble and perplexity. With the quick intuitions of a woman, her mind went far beyond his brief sentences and saw all the difficulties of his lot. His feeling reference to the loss of his wife proved that he was not a coarse-natured man. As he spoke so plainly of his life during the past year, her mind was insensibly abstracted from everything but his want and hers, and she thought his farmhouse afforded just the secluded refuge she craved. As he drew near the end of his story and hesitated in visible embarrassment, she mustered courage to say timidly, "Would you permit a suggestion from me?""Why, certainly.""You have said, sir, that your business and means would not allow you to keep two in help, and as you have been speaking I have tried to think of some way. The fact that your house is so lonely is just the reason why I should like to work in it. As you can understand, I have no wish to meet strangers. Now, sir, I am willing to work for very little; I should be glad to find such a quiet refuge for simply my board and clothes, and I would do my very best and try to learn what I did not know. It seems to me that if I worked for so little you might think you could afford to hire some elderly woman also?" and she looked at him in the eager hope that he would accept her proposition.He shook his head as he replied, "I don't know of any such person. I took the best one in this house, and you know how she turned out.""Perhaps Mr. Watterly may know of someone else," she faltered. She was now deeply troubled and perplexed again, supposing that he was about to renew his first proposition that she should be his only help.
"If Mr. Watterly did know of anyone I would make the trial, but he does not. Your offer is very considerate and reasonable, but--" and he hesitated again, scarcely knowing how to go on."I am sorry, sir," she said, rising, as if to end the interview."Considerably later than this," said Camille.
"I don't think so; the journal! where is it?""My mother has it locked up. I'll run.""No, Rose; no one but me. Now, Josephine, do not you go and giveway to hopes that may be delusive. I must see that journaldirectly. I will go to the baroness. I shall excuse her less thanyou would."He was scarcely gone when a cry of horror filled the room, a cry asof madness falling like a thunderbolt on a human mind. It wasJosephine, who up to this had not uttered one word. But now shestood, white as a corpse, in the middle of the room, and wrung herhands. "What have I done? What shall I do? It was the 3d of May.I see it before me in letters of fire; the 3d of May! the 3d ofMay!--and he writes the 15th.""No! no!" cried Camille wildly. "It was long, long after time 3d.""It was the 3d of May," repeated Josephine in a hoarse voice thatnone would have known for hers.Camille ran to her with words of comfort and hope; he did not shareher fears. He remembered about when the Moniteur came, though notthe very day. He threw his arm lovingly round her as if to protecther against these shadowy terrors. Her dilating eyes seemed fixedon something distant in space or time, at some horrible thing comingslowly towards her. She did not see Camille approach her, but themoment she felt him she turned upon him swiftly."Do you love me?" still in the hoarse voice that had so little in itof Josephine. "I mean, does one grain of respect or virtue minglein your love for me?""What words are these, my wife?""Then leave Raynal's house upon the instant. You wonder I can be socruel? I wonder too; and that I can see my duty so clear in oneshort moment. But I have lived twenty years since that letter came.
Oh! my brain has whirled through a thousand agonies. And I havecome back a thousand times to the same thing; you and I must seeeach other's face no more.""Oh!" cried Rose, "is there no way but this?""Take care," she screamed, wildly, to her and Camille, "I am on theverge of madness; is it for you two to thrust me over the precipice?Come, now, if you are a man of honor, if you have a spark ofgratitude towards the poor woman who has given you all except herfair name--that she will take to the grave in spite of you all--promise that you will leave Raynal's house this minute if he isalive, and let me die in honor as I have lived.""No, no!" cried Camille, terror-stricken; "it cannot be. Heaven ismerciful, and Heaven sees how happy we are. Be calm! these are idlefears; be calm! I say. For if it is so I will obey you. I willstay; I will go; I will die; I will live; I will obey you.""Swear this to me by the thing you hold most sacred," she almostshrieked.
"I swear by my love for you," was his touching reply.Ere they had recovered a miserable composure after this passionateoutburst, all the more terrible as coming from a creature so tenderas Josephine, agitated voices were heard at the door, and thebaroness tottered in, followed by the doctor, who was trying in vainto put some bounds to her emotion and her hopes."Oh, my children! my children!" cried she, trembling violently."Here, Rose, my hands shake so; take this key, open the cabinet,there is the Moniteur. What is the date?"The journal was found, and rapidly examined. The date was the 20thof May.
"There!" cried Camille. "I told you!"The baroness uttered a feeble moan. Her hopes died as suddenly asthey had been born, and she sank drooping into a chair, with abitter sigh.Camille stole a joyful look at Josephine. She was in the sameattitude looking straight before her as at a coming horror.Presently Rose uttered a faint cry, "The battle was BEFORE.""To be sure," cried the doctor. "You forget, it is not the date ofthe paper we want, but of the battle it records. For Heaven's sake,when was the battle?""The 3d of May," said Josephine, in a voice that seemed to come fromthe tomb.Rose's hands that held the journal fell like a dead weight upon herknees, journal and all. She whispered, "It was the 3d of May.""Ah!" cried the baroness, starting up, "he may yet be alive. Hemust be alive. Heaven is merciful! Heaven would not take my sonfrom me, a poor old woman who has not long to live. There was aletter; where is the letter?""Are we mad, not to read the letter?" said the doctor. "I had it;it has dropped from my old fingers when I went for the journal."A short examination of the room showed the letter lying crumpled upnear the door. Camille gave it to the baroness. She tried to readit, but could not.
"I am old," said she; "my hand shakes and my eyes are troubled.This young gentleman will read it to us. His eyes are not dim andtroubled. Something tells me that when I hear this letter, I shallfind out whether my son lives. Why do you not read it to me,Camille?" cried she, almost fiercely.
Camille, thus pressed, obeyed mechanically, and began to readRaynal's letter aloud, scarce knowing what he did, but urged anddriven by the baroness."MY DEAR MOTHER,--I hope all are well at Beaurepaire, as I am, or Ihope soon to be. I received a wound in our last skirmish; not avery severe one, but it put an end to my writing for some time.""Go on, dear Camille! go on.""The page ends there, madame,"The paper was thin, and Camille, whose hand trembled, had somedifficulty in detaching the leaves from one another. He succeeded,however, at last, and went on reading and writhing.
"By the way, you must address your next letter to me as ColonelRaynal. I was promoted just before this last affair, but had nottime to tell you; and my wound stopped my writing till now.""There, there!" cried the baroness. "He was Colonel Raynal, andColonel Raynal was not killed."The doctor implored her not to interrupt."Go on, Camille. Why do you hesitate? what is the matter? Do forpity's sake go on, sir."Camille cast a look of agony around, and put his hand to his brow,on which large drops of cold perspiration, like a death dew, weregathering; but driven to the stake on all sides, he gasped on ratherthan read, for his eye had gone down the page."A namesake of mine, Commandant Raynal,"--"Ah!""has not been--so fortunate. He"--"Go on! go on!"The wretched man could now scarcely utter Raynal's words; they camefrom him in a choking groan."he was killed, poor fellow! while heading a gallant charge upon theenemy's flank."He ground the letter convulsively in his hand, then it fell allcrumpled on the floor."Bless you, Camille!" cried the baroness, "bless you! bless you! Ihave a son still."She stooped with difficulty, took up the letter, and, kissing itagain and again, fell on her knees, and thanked Heaven aloud beforethem all. Then she rose and went hastily out, and her voice washeard crying very loud, "Jacintha! Jacintha!"The doctor followed in considerable anxiety for the effects of thisviolent joy on so aged a person. Three remained behind, panting andpale like those to whom dead Lazarus burst the tomb, and came forthin a moment, at a word. Then Camille half kneeled, half fell, atJosephine's feet, and, in a voice choked with sobs, bade her disposeof him.She turned her head away. "Do not speak to me; do not look at me;if we look at one another, we are lost. Go! die at your post, and Iat mine."He bowed his head, and kissed her dress, then rose calm as despair,and white as death, and, with his knees knocking under him, totteredaway like a corpse set moving.
He disappeared from the house.The baroness soon came back, triumphant and gay.
"I have sent her to bid them ring the bells in the village. Thepoor shall be feasted; all shall share our joy: my son was dead, andlives. Oh, joy! joy! joy!""Mother!" shrieked Josephine."Mad woman that I am, I am too boisterous. Help me, Rose! she isgoing to faint; her lips are white."Dr. Aubertin and Rose brought a chair. They forced Josephine intoit. She was not the least faint; yet her body obeyed their handsjust like a dead body. The baroness melted into tears; tearsstreamed from Rose's eyes. Josephine's were dry and stony, andfixed on coming horror. The baroness looked at her with anxiety.
"Thoughtless old woman! It was too sudden; it is too much for mydear child; too much for me," and she kneeled, and laid her agedhead on her daughter's bosom, saying feebly through her tears, "toomuch joy, too much joy!"Josephine took no notice of her. She sat like one turned to stonelooking far away over her mother's head with rigid eyes fixed on theair and on coming horrors.Rose felt her arm seized. It was Aubertin. He too was pale now,though not before. He spoke in a terrible whisper to Rose, his eyefixed on the woman of stone that sat there.
"IS THIS JOY?"Rose, by a mighty effort, raised her eyes and confronted his full."What else should it be?" said she.And with these words this Spartan girl was her sister's championonce more against all comers, friend or foe.Chapter 16
Dr. Aubertin received one day a note from a publishing bookseller,to inquire whether he still thought of giving the world his valuablework on insects. The doctor was amazed. "My valuable work! Why,Rose, they all refused it, and this person in particular recoiledfrom it as if my insects could sting on paper."The above led to a correspondence, in which the convert to insectsexplained that the work must be published at the author's expense,the publisher contenting himself with the profits. The author,thirsting for the public, consented. Then the publisher wrote againto say that the immortal treatise must be spiced; a little politicsflung in: "Nothing goes down, else." The author answered in someheat that he would not dilute things everlasting with the fleetingtopics of the day, nor defile science with politics. On this hisMentor smoothed him down, despising him secretly for not seeing thata book is a matter of trade and nothing else. It ended in Aubertingoing to Paris to hatch his Phoenix. He had not been there a week,when a small deputation called on him, and informed him he had beenelected honorary member of a certain scientific society. Thecompliment was followed by others, till at last certain ladies, withthe pliancy of their sex, find out they had always secretly caredfor butterflies. Then the naturalist smelt a rat, or, in otherwords, began to scent that entomology, a form of idiocy in a poorman, is a graceful decoration of the intellect in a rich one.Philosopher without bile, he saw through this, and let it amuse, notshock him. His own species, a singularly interesting one in myopinion, had another trait in reserve for him.
He took a world of trouble to find out the circumstances of hisnephew's nephews and nieces: then he made arrangements fordistributing a large part of his legacy among them. His intentionsand the proportions of his generosity transpired.Hitherto they had been silent, but now they all fell-to and abusedhim: each looking only to the amount of his individual share, not atthe sum total the doctor was giving way to an ungrateful lot.
The donor was greatly amused, and noted down the incident and someof the remarks in his commonplace book, under the general head of"Bestiarium;" and the particular head of "Homo."Paris with its seductions netted the good doctor, and held him twoor three months; would have detained him longer, but for alarmingaccounts the baroness sent of Josephine's health. These determinedhim to return to Beaurepaire; and, must I own it, the announcementwas no longer hailed at Beaurepaire with universal joy asheretofore.Josephine Raynal, late Dujardin, is by this time no stranger to myintelligent reader. I wish him to bring his knowledge of hercharacter and her sensibility to my aid. Imagine, as the wearyhours and days and weeks roll over her head, what this loving womanfeels for her lover whom she has dismissed; what this grateful wifefeels for the benefactor she has unwittingly wronged; but will neverwrong with her eyes open; what this lady pure as snow, and proud asfire, feels at the seeming frailty into which a cruel combination ofcircumstances has entrapped her.
Put down the book a moment: shut your eyes: and imagine this strangeand complicated form of human suffering.Her mental sufferings were terrible; and for some time Rose fearedfor her reason. At last her agonies subsided into a listlessnessand apathy little less alarming. She seemed a creature descendinginch by inch into the tomb. Indeed, I fully believe she would havedied of despair: but one of nature's greatest forces stepped intothe arena and fought on the side of life. She was affected withcertain bilious symptoms that added to Rose's uneasiness, butJacintha assured her it was nothing, and would retire and leave thesufferer better. Jacintha, indeed, seemed now to take a particularinterest in Josephine, and was always about her with looks of pityand interest."Good creature!" thought Rose, "she sees my sister is unhappy: andthat makes her more attentive and devoted to her than ever."One day these three were together in Josephine's room. Josephinewas mechanically combing her long hair, when all of a sudden shestretched out her hand and cried, "Rose!"Rose ran to her, and coming behind her saw in the glass that herlips were colorless. She screamed to Jacintha, and between themthey supported Josephine to the bed. She had hardly touched it whenshe fainted dead away. "Mamma! mamma!" cried Rose in her terror."Hush!" cried Jacintha roughly, "hold your tongue: it is only afaint. Help me loosen her: don't make any noise, whatever." Theyloosened her stays, and applied the usual remedies, but it was sometime before she came-to. At last the color came back to her lips,then to her cheek, and the light to her eye. She smiled feebly onJacintha and Rose, and asked if she had not been insensible.
"Yes, love, and frightened us--a little--not much--oh, dear! oh,dear!""Don't be alarmed, sweet one, I am better. And I will never do itagain, since it frightens you." Then Josephine said to her sisterin a low voice, and in the Italian language, "I hoped it was death,my sister; but he comes not to the wretched.""If you hoped that," replied Rose in the same language, "you do notlove your poor sister who so loves you."While the Italian was going on, Jacintha's dark eyes glancedsuspiciously on each speaker in turn. But her suspicions were allwide of the mark."Now may I go and tell mamma?" asked Rose.
"No, mademoiselle, you shall not," said Jacintha. "Madame Raynal,do take my side, and forbid her.""Why, what is it to you?" said Rose, haughtily."If it was not something to me, should I thwart my dear young lady?""No. And you shall have your own way, if you will but condescend togive me a reason."This to some of us might appear reasonable, but not to Jacintha: iteven hurt her feelings.
"Mademoiselle Rose," she said, "when you were little and used to askme for anything, did I ever say to you, 'Give me a REASON first'?""There! she is right," said Josephine. "We should not make termswith tried friends. Come, we will pay her devotion this compliment.It is such a small favor. For my part I feel obliged to her forasking it."Josephine's health improved steadily from that day. Her hollowcheeks recovered their plump smoothness, and her beauty its bloom,and her person grew more noble and statue-like than ever, and withinshe felt a sense of indomitable vitality. Her appetite had for sometime been excessively feeble and uncertain, and her food tasteless;but of late, by what she conceived to be a reaction such as iscommon after youth has shaken off a long sickness, her appetite hadbeen not only healthy but eager. The baroness observed this, and itrelieved her of a large portion of her anxiety. One day at dinnerher maternal heart was so pleased with Josephine's performance thatshe took it as a personal favor, "Well done, Josephine," said she;"that gives your mother pleasure to see you eat again. Soup andbouillon: and now twice you have been to Rose for some of that pate,which does you so much credit, Jacintha."Josephine colored high at this compliment.