"Nor I myself, governor.""What do you come for?""A suit of regimentals, and money to take me to Paris.kusama coin bitpanda""And suppose, instead of that, I turn out a corporal's guard, andbid them shoot you in the courtyard?""It would be the drollest thing you ever did, all things considered,"said the other coolly, but bitterly.
"What would you with me, my chilethereum classic yahoo forumd?" asked that lady, with an accentin which a shade of surprise mingled with great politeness."Forgive me, madame," began Jacintha, with a formal courtesy; "buthow can I leave you, and Mademoiselle Josephine, and MademoiselleRose? I was born at Beaurepaire; my mother died in the chateau: myfather died in the village; but he had meat every day from thebaron's own table, and fuel from the baron's wood, and died blessingthe house of Beaurepaire. I CANNOT go. The others are gone becauseprosperity is here no longer. Let it be so; I will stay till thesun shines again upon the chateau, and then you shall send me awayif you are bent on it; but not now, my ladies--oh, not now! Oh! oh!
oh!" And the warm-hearted girl burst out sobbing ungracefully."My child," said the baroness, "these sentiments touch me, and honoryou. But retire, if you please, while I consult my daughters."Jacintha cut her sobs dead short, and retreated with a formalreverence.The consultation consisted of the baroness opening her arms, andboth her daughters embracing her at once. Proud as they were, theywept with joy at having made one friend amongst all their servants.Jacintha stayed.As months rolled on, Rose de Beaurepaire recovered her naturalgayety in spite of bereavement and poverty; so strong are youth, andhealth, and temperament. But her elder sister had a grief all herown: Captain Dujardin, a gallant young officer, well-born, and hisown master, had courted her with her parents' consent; and, evenwhen the baron began to look coldly on the soldier of the Republic,young Dujardin, though too proud to encounter the baron's irony andlooks of scorn, would not yield love to pique. He came no more tothe chateau, but he would wait hours and hours on the path to thelittle oratory in the park, on the bare chance of a passing word oreven a kind look from Josephine. So much devotion gradually won aheart which in happier times she had been half encouraged to givehim; and, when he left her on a military service of uncommon danger,the woman's reserve melted, and, in that moment of mutual grief andpassion, she vowed she loved him better than all the world.
Letters from the camp breathing a devotion little short of worshipfed her attachment; and more than one public mention of his name andservices made her proud as well as fond of the fiery young soldier.Still she did not open her heart to her parents. The baron, aliveat that time, was exasperated against the Republic, 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.Chapter 26 ＂You Don't Know.＂
As Timothy Weeks limped hastily away, Holcroft, with a strong revulsion of feeling, thought of Alida. HE had been able to answer insults in a way eminently satisfactory to himself, and every blow had relieved his electrical condition. But how about the poor woman who had received worse blows than he had inflicted? As he hastened toward the house he recalled a dim impression of seeing her sink down on the doorstep. Then he remembered her effort to face the marauders alone. "She said she was to blame, poor child! As if there were any blame at all! She said, 'spare him,' as if I was facing a band of murderers instead of a lot of neighborhood scamps, and that she'd go away. I'd fight all Oakville--men, women, and children--before I'd permit that," and he started on a run.He found Alida on the step, where she had sunk as if struck down by the rough epithets hurled at her. She was sobbing violently, almost hysterically, and at first could not reply to his soothing words. He lifted her up, and half carried her within to a chair. "Oh, oh," she cried, "why did I not realize it more fully before? Selfish woman that I was, to marry you and bring on you all this shame and danger. I should have thought of it all, I ought to have died rather than do you such a wrong.""Alida, Alida," protested Holcroft, "if it were all to do over again, I'd be a thousand times more--""Oh, I know, I know! You are brave and generous and honest. I saw that much when you first spoke to me. I yielded to the temptation to secure such a friend. I was too cowardly to face the world alone. And now see what's happened! You're in danger and disgrace on my account. I must go away--I must do what I should have done at first," and with her face buried in her hands she rocked back and forth, overwhelmed by the bitterness and reproach of her thoughts.
"Alida," he urged, "please be calm and sensible. Let me reason with you and tell you the truth. All that's happened is that the Oakville cubs have received a well-deserved whipping. When you get calm, I can explain everything so it won't seem half so bad. Neither you nor I are in any danger, and, as for your going away, look me in the eyes and listen."His words were almost stern in their earnestness. She raised her streaming eyes to his face, then sprung up, exclaiming, "Oh! You're wounded!"
"What's that, compared with your talk of going away?"All explanations and reassurances would have been trivial in effect, compared with the truth that he had been hurt in her defense. She dashed her tears right and left, ran for a basin of water, and making him take her chair, began washing away the blood stains."Thunder!" he said, laughing, "How quickly we've changed places!""Oh, oh!" she moaned, "It's a terrible wound; it might have killed you, and they WILL kill you yet."
He took her hands and held them firmly. "Alida," he said, gravely yet kindly, "be still and listen to me."For a moment or two longer her bosom heaved with convulsive sobs, and then she grew quiet. "Don't you know you can't go away?" he asked, still retaining her hands and looking in her face."I could for your sake," she began."No, it wouldn't be for my sake. I don't wish you to go, and wouldn't let you. If you should let the Oakville rabble drive you away, I WOULD be in danger, and so would others, for I'd be worse on 'em than an earthquake. After the lesson they've had tonight, they'll let us alone, and I'll let them alone. You know I've tried to be honest with you from the first. Believe me, then, the trouble's over unless we make more for ourselves. Now, promise you'll do as I say and let me manage."
"I'll try," she breathed softly."No, no! That won't do. I'm beginning to find you out. You may get some foolish, self-sacrificing notion in your head that it would be best for me, when it would be my ruination. Will you promise?"
"Yes.""Famous! Now you can bathe my head all you please for it feels a little queer."
"It's an awful wound," she said in tones of the deepest sympathy. "Oh, I'm so sorry!""Pshaw! My head is too hard for that little scamp of a Weeks to break. His turn'll come next."She cut away the blood-clotted hair and bound up the rather severe scalp wound with a tenderness and sympathy that expressed itself even in her touch. She was too confused and excited to be conscious of herself, but she had received some tremendously strong impressions. Chief among them was the truth that nothing which had happened made any difference in him--that he was still the same loyal friend, standing between her and the world she dreaded--yes, between her and her own impulses toward self-sacrifice. Sweetest of all was the assurance that he did this for his own sake as well as hers. These facts seemed like a foothold in the mad torrent of feeling and shame which had been sweeping her away. She could think of little more than that she was safe--safe because he was brave and loyal--and yes, safe because he wanted her and would not give her up. The heart of a woman must be callous indeed, and her nature not only trivial but stony if she is not deeply touched under circumstances like these.In spite of his laughing contempt of danger, she trembled as she saw him ready to go out again; she wished to accompany him on his round of observation, but he scouted the idea, although it pleased him. Standing in the door, she strained her eyes and listened breathlessly. He soon returned and said, "They've all had enough. We won't be disturbed again."He saw that her nerves needed quieting, and he set about the task with such simple tact as he possessed. His first step was to light his pipe in the most nonchalant manner, and then he burst out laughing. "I'll hang that hickory up. It has done too good service to be put to common use again. Probably you never heard of a skimelton, Alida. Well, they are not so uncommon in this region. I suppose I'll have to own up to taking part in one myself when I was a young chap. They usually are only rough larks and are taken good-naturedly. I'm not on jesting terms with my neighbors, and they had no business to come here, but I wouldn't have made any row if they hadn't insulted you."Her head bowed very low as she faltered, "They've heard everything."
He came right to her and took her hand. "Didn't I hear everything before they did?""Yes."
"Well, Alida, I'm not only satisfied with you, but I'm very grateful to you. Why shouldn't I be when you are a good Christian woman? I guess I'm the one to be suited, not Oakville. I should be as reckless as the devil if you should go away from me. Don't I act like a man who's ready to stand up for and protect you?""Yes, too ready. It would kill me if anything happened to you on my account."
"Well, the worst would happen," he said firmly, "if we don't go right on as we've begun. If we go quietly on about our own affairs, we'll soon be let alone and that's all we ask.""Yes, yes indeed! Don't worry, James. I'll do as you wish."
"Famous! You never said 'James' to me before. Why haven't you?""I don't know," she faltered, with a sudden rush of color to her pale face."Well, that's my name," he resumed, laughing. "I guess it's because we are getting better acquainted.She looked up and said impetuously, "You don't know how a woman feels when a man stands up for her as you did tonight."
"Well, I know how a man feels when there is a woman so well worth standing up for. It was a lucky thing that I had nothing heavier in my hand than that hickory." All the while he was looking at her curiously; then he spoke his thought. "You're a quiet little woman, Alida, most times, but you're capable of a thunder gust now and then.""I'll try to be quiet at all times," she replied, with drooping eyes.
"Oh, I'm not complaining!" he said, laughing. "I like the trait."He took a small pitcher and went to the dairy. Returning, he poured out two glasses of milk and said, "Here's to your health and happiness, Alida; and when I don't stand up for the woman who started out to save me from a mob of murderers, may the next thing I eat or drink choke me. You didn't know they were merely a lot of Oakville boys, did you?"
"You can't make so light of it," said she. "They tried to close on you, and if that stone had struck you on the temple, it might have killed you. They swore like pirates, and looked like ruffians with their blackened faces. They certainly were not boys in appearance.""I'm afraid I swore too," he said sadly.
"You had some excuse, but I'm sorry. They would have hurt you if you hadn't kept them off.""Yes, they'd probably have given me a beating. People do things in hot blood they wish they hadn't afterward. I know this Oakville rough-scuff. Since we've had it out, and they know what to expect, they'll give me a wide berth. Now go and sleep. You were never safer in your life."She did not trust herself to reply, but the glance she gave him from her tearful eyes was so eloquent with grateful feeling that he was suddenly conscious of some unwonted sensations. He again patrolled the place and tied the dog near the barn."It's barely possible that some of these mean cusses might venture to kindle a fire, but a bark from Towser will warn 'em off. She IS a spirited little woman," he added, with a sharp change in soliloquy. "There's nothing milk-and-water about her. Thunder! I felt like kissing her when she looked at me so. I guess that crack on my skull has made me a little light-headed."
He lay down in his clothes so that he might rush out in case of any alarm, and he intended to keep awake. Then, the first thing he knew, the sun was shining in the windows.It was long before Alida slept, and the burden of her thoughts confirmed the words that she had spoken so involuntarily. "You don't know how a woman feels when a man stands up for her as you did." It is the nature of her sex to adore hardy, courageous manhood. Beyond all power of expression, Alida felt her need of a champion and protector. She was capable of going away for his sake, but she would go in terror and despair. The words that had smitten her confirmed all her old fears of facing the world alone. Then came the overpowering thought of his loyalty and kindness, of his utter and almost fierce repugnance to the idea of her leaving him. In contrast with the man who had deceived and wronged her, Holcroft's course overwhelmed her very soul with a passion of grateful affection. A new emotion, unlike anything she had ever known, thrilled her heart and covered her face with blushes. "I could die for him!" she murmured.
She awoke late in the morning. When at last she entered the kitchen she stopped in deep chagrin, for Holcroft had almost completed preparations for breakfast. "Ha, ha!" he laughed, "turn about is fair play.""Well," she sighed, "there's no use of making excuses now."
"There's no occasion for any. Did you ever see such a looking case as I am with this bandage around my head?""Does it pain you?" she asked sympathetically.