"You've worked harpolygon crypto price coinspotd today," she said sympathetically.
Holcroft soon purchased the articles on his list, meanwhile racking tron price meaninghis brains to think of something that he could buy for Alida, but the fear of being thought sentimental and of appearing to seek a personal regard for himself, not "nominated in the bond," restrained him.On his way home he was again sunk in deep abstraction, but the bitterness of his feeling had passed away. Although as mistaken as before in his apprehension of Alida, his thoughts were kinder and juster. "I've no right to find fault or complain," he said to himself. "She's done all I asked and better than she agreed, and there's no one to blame if she can't do more. It must have been plain enough to her at first that I didn't want anything but a housekeeper--a quiet, friendly body that would look after the house and dairy, and she's done better than I even hoped. That's just the trouble; she's turned out so different from what I expected, and looks so different from what she did, that I'm just sort of carried away. I'd give half the farm if she was sitting by my side this June evening and I could tell her all I feel and know she was glad. I must be just and fair to her. I asked her to agree to one thing and now I'm beginning to want a tremendous sight more--I want her to like not only her home and work and the quiet life she so longed for, but I want her to like me, to enjoy my society, not only in a friendly, businesslike way, but in another way--yes, confound my slow wits! Somewhat as if she was my wife in reality and not merely in name, as I insisted. It's mighty mean business in me, who have been so proud of standing up to my agreements and so exacting of others to do the same. I went away cold and stiff this afternoon because she wasn't silly and sentimental when I was. I'm to her an unpolished, homely, middle-aged man, and yet I sort of scoffed at the self-sacrifice which has led her to be pleasant and companionable in every way that her feelings allowed. I wish I were younger and better looking, so it wouldn't all be a sense of duty and gratitude. Gratitude be hanged! I don't want any more of it. Well, now, James Holcroft, if you're the square man you supposed yourself to be, you'll be just as kind and considerate as you know how, and then you'll leave Alida to the quiet, peaceful life to which she looked forward when she married you. The thing for you to do is to go back to your first ways after you were married and attend to the farm. She doesn't want you hanging around and looking at her as if she was one of her own posies. That's something she wasn't led to expect and it would be mean enough to force it upon her before she shows that she wishes it, and I couldn't complain if she NEVER wished it."
During the first hour after Holcroft's departure Alida had been perplexed and worried, but her intuitions soon led to hopefulness, and the beauty and peace of nature without aided in restoring her serenity. The more minutely she dwelt on Holcroft's words and manner, the more true it seemed that he was learning to take an interest in her that was personal and apart from every other consideration. "If I am gentle, patient, and faithful," she thought, "all will come out right. He is so true and straightforward that I need have no fears."When he returned and greeted her with what seemed his old, friendly, natural manner, and, during a temporary absence of Jane, told her laughingly of the Mumpson episode, she was almost completely reassured. "Suppose the widow breaks through all restraint and appears as did Jane, what would you do?" he asked."Whatever you wished," she replied, smiling."In other words, what you thought your duty?""I suppose that is what one should try to do."
"I guess you are the one that would succeed in doing it, even to Mrs. Mumpson," he said, turning hastily away and going to his room.She was puzzled again. "I'm sure I don't dote on self-sacrifice and hard duty any more than he does, but I can't tell him that duty is not hard when it's to him."At this moment Raynal's voice was heard calling him.
"There is a light in that bedroom.""It is not a bedroom, colonel; it is our sitting-room now. We shallfind them all there, or at least the young ladies; and perhaps thedoctor. The baroness goes to bed early. Meantime I can show youone of our dramatis personae, and an important one too. She rulesthe roost."He took him mysteriously and showed him Jacintha.Moonlight by itself seems white, and candlelight by itself seemsyellow; but when the two come into close contrast at night, candleturns a reddish flame, and moonlight a bluish gleam.So Jacintha, with her shoes in this celestial sheen, and her face inthat demoniacal glare, was enough to knock the gazer's eye out."Make a good sentinel--this one," said Raynal--"an outlying picketfor instance, on rough ground, in front of the enemy's riflemen.""Ha! ha! colonel! Let us see where this staircase leads. I have anidea it will prove a short cut.""Where to?""To the saloon, or somewhere, or else to some of Jacintha's haunts.
Serve her right for going to sleep at the mouth of her den.""Forward then--no, halt! Suppose it leads to the bedrooms? Mindthis is a thundering place for ceremony. We shall get drummed outof the barracks if we don't mind our etiquette."At this they hesitated; and Edouard himself thought, on the whole,it would be better to go and hammer at the front door.Now while they hesitated, a soft delicious harmony of female voicessuddenly rose, and seemed to come and run round the walls. The menlooked at one another in astonishment; for the effect was magical.
The staircase being enclosed on all sides with stone walls andfloored with stone, they were like flies inside a violoncello; thevoices rang above, below, and on every side of the vibrating walls.In some epochs spirits as hardy as Raynal's, and wits as quick asRiviere's, would have fled then and there to the nearest public, andtold over cups how they had heard the dames of Beaurepaire, longsince dead, holding their revel, and the conscious old devil's nestof a chateau quivering to the ghostly strains.But this was an incredulous age. They listened, and listened, anddecided the sounds came from up-stairs."Let us mount, and surprise these singing witches," said Edouard.
"Surprise them! what for? It is not the enemy--for once. What isthe good of surprising our friends?"Storming parties and surprises were no novelty and therefore notreat to Raynal."It will be so delightful to see their faces at first sight of you.O colonel, for my sake! Don't spoil it by going tamely in at thefront door, after coming at night from Egypt for half an hour."Raynal grumbled something about its being a childish trick; but toplease Edouard consented at last; only stipulated for a light: "orelse," said he, "we shall surprise ourselves instead with a brokenneck, going over ground we don't know to surprise the natives--ourskirmishers got nicked that way now and then in Egypt.""Yes, colonel, I will go first with Jacintha's candle." Edouardmounted the stairs on tiptoe. Raynal followed. The solid stonesteps did not prate. The men had mounted a considerable way, whenpuff a blast of wind came through a hole, and out went Edouard'scandle. He turned sharply round to Raynal. "Peste!" said he in avicious whisper. But the other laid his hand on his shoulder andwhispered, "Look to the front." He looked, and, his own candlebeing out, saw a glimmer on ahead. He crept towards it. It was ataper shooting a feeble light across a small aperture. They caughta glimpse of what seemed to be a small apartment. Yet Edouardrecognized the carpet of the tapestried room--which was a very largeroom. Creeping a yard nearer, he discovered that it was thetapestried room, and that what had seemed the further wall was onlythe screen, behind which were lights, and two women singing a duet.He whispered to Raynal, "It is the tapestried room.""Is it a sitting-room?" whispered Raynal.
"Yes! yes! Mind and not knock your foot against the wood."And Raynal went softly up and put his foot quietly through theaperture, which he now saw was made by a panel drawn back close tothe ground; and stood in the tapestried chamber. The carpet wasthick; the voices favored the stealthy advance; the floor of the oldhouse was like a rock; and Edouard put his face through theaperture, glowing all over with anticipation of the little scream ofjoy that would welcome his friend dropping in so nice and suddenlyfrom Egypt.The feeling was rendered still more piquant by a sharp curiositythat had been growing on him for some minutes past. For why wasthis passage opened to-night?--he had never seen it opened before.
And why was Jacintha lying sentinel at the foot of the stairs?But this was not all. Now that they were in the room both menbecame conscious of another sound besides the ladies' voices--a verypeculiar sound. It also came from behind the screen. They bothheard it, and showed, by the puzzled looks they cast at one another,that neither could make out what on earth it was. It consisted of asuccession of little rustles, followed by little thumps on thefloor.
But what was curious, too, this rustle, thump--rustle, thump--fellexactly into the time of the music; so that, clearly, either therustle thump was being played to the tune, or the tune sung to therustle thump.This last touch of mystery inflamed Edouard's impatience beyondbearing: he pointed eagerly and merrily to the corner of the screen.Raynal obeyed, and stepped very slowly and cautiously towards it.Rustle, thump! rustle, thump! rustle, thump! with the rhythm ofharmonious voices.Edouard got his head and foot into the room without taking his eyeoff Raynal.Rustle, thump! rustle, thump! rustle, thump!
Raynal was now at the screen, and quietly put his head round it, andhis hand upon it.Edouard was bursting with expectation.
No result. What is this? Don't they see him? Why does he notspeak to them? He seems transfixed.Rustle, thump! rustle, thump; accompanied now for a few notes by onevoice only, Rose's.
Suddenly there burst a shriek from Josephine, so loud, so fearful,that it made even Raynal stagger back a step, the screen in hishand.Then another scream of terror and anguish from Rose. Then a faintercry, and the heavy helpless fall of a human body.
Raynal sprang forward whirling the screen to the earth in terribleagitation, and Edouard bounded over it as it fell at his feet. Hedid not take a second step. The scene that caught his eye stupefiedand paralyzed him in full career, and froze him to the spot withamazement and strange misgivings.Chapter 19To return for a moment to Rose. She parted from Edouard, and wentin at the front door: but the next moment she opened it softly andwatched her lover unseen. "Dear Edouard!" she murmured: and thenshe thought, "how sad it is that I must deceive him, even to-night:must make up an excuse to get him from me, when we were so happytogether. Ah! he little knows how I shall welcome our wedding-day.
When once I can see my poor martyr on the road to peace and contentunder the good doctor's care. And oh! the happiness of having nomore secrets from him I love! Dear Edouard! when once we aremarried, I never, never, will have a secret from you again--I swearit."As a comment on these words she now stepped cautiously out, andpeered in every direction."St--st!" she whispered. No answer came to this signal.
Rose returned into the house and bolted the door inside. She wentup to the tapestried room, and found the doctor in the act ofwishing Josephine good-night. The baroness, fatigued a little byher walk, had mounted no higher than her own bedroom, which was onthe first floor just under the tapestried room. Rose followed thedoctor out. "Dear friend, one word. Josephine talked of tellingRaynal. You have not encouraged her to do that?""Certainly not, while he is in Egypt.""Still less on his return. Doctor, you don't know that man.Josephine does not know him. But I do. He would kill her if heknew. He would kill her that minute. He would not wait: he wouldnot listen to excuses: he is a man of iron. Or if he spared her hewould kill Camille: and that would destroy her by the cruellest ofall deaths! My friend, I am a wicked, miserable girl. I am thecause of all this misery!"She then told Aubertin all about the anonymous letter, and whatRaynal had said to her in consequence.
"He never would have married her had he known she loved another. Heasked me was it so. I told him a falsehood. At least Iequivocated, and to equivocate with one so loyal and simple was todeceive him. I am the only sinner: that sweet angel is the onlysufferer. Is this the justice of Heaven? Doctor, my remorse isgreat. No one knows what I feel when I look at my work. Edouardthinks I love her so much better than I do him. He is wrong: it isnot love only, it is pity: it is remorse for the sorrow I havebrought on her, and the wrong I have done poor Raynal."The high-spirited girl was greatly agitated: and Aubertin, though hedid not acquit her of all blame, soothed her, and made excuses forher."We must not always judge by results," said he. "Things turnedunfortunately. You did for the best. I forgive you for one. Thatis, I will forgive you if you promise not to act again without myadvice.""Oh, never! never!""And, above all, no imprudence about that child. In three littleweeks they will be together without risk of discovery. Well, youdon't answer me."Rose's blood turned cold. "Dear friend," she stammered, "I quiteagree with you.""Promise, then.""Not to let Josephine go to Frejus?" said Rose hastily. "Oh, yes! Ipromise.""You are a good girl," said Aubertin. "You have a will of your own.
But you can submit to age and experience." The doctor then kissedher, and bade her farewell."I leave for Paris at six in the morning," he said. "I will not tryyour patience or hers unnecessarily. Perhaps it will not be threeweeks ere she sees her child under her friend's roof."The moment Rose was alone, she sat down and sighed bitterly. "Thereis no end to it," she sobbed despairingly. "It is like a spider'sweb: every struggle to be free but multiplies the fine yetirresistible thread that seems to bind me. And to-night I thoughtto be so happy; instead of that, he has left me scarce the heart todo what I have to do."She went back to the room, opened a window, and put out a whitehandkerchief, then closed the window down on it.Then she went to Josephine's bedroom-door: it opened on thetapestried room."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 mean 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.
Rose returned softly, and sat down with her head in her hand, in acalm attitude belied by her glancing eye, and the quick tapping ofher other hand upon the table.Presently she raised her head quickly; a sound had reached her ear,--a sound so slight that none but a high-strung ear could have caughtit. It was like a mouse giving a single scratch against a stonewall.
Rose coughed slightly.On this a clearer sound was heard, as of a person scratching woodwith the finger-nail. Rose darted to the side of the room, pressedagainst the wall, and at the same time put her other hand againstthe rim of one of the panels and pushed it laterally; it yielded,and at the opening stood Jacintha in her cloak and bonnet.
"Yes," said Jacintha, "under my cloak--look!""Ah! you found the things on the steps?""Yes! I nearly tumbled over them. Have you locked that door?""No, but I will." And Rose glided to the door and locked it. Thenshe put the screen up between Josephine's room and the open panel:then she and Jacintha were wonderfully busy on the other side thescreen, but presently Rose said, "This is imprudent; you must godown to the foot of the stairs and wait till I call you."Jacintha pleaded hard against this arrangement, and represented thatthere was no earthly chance of any one coming to that part of thechateau.