The quiet meal was soon over. Holcroft put a five-dollar bill ethereum gas networkin the hands of the justice, who filled in a certificate and departed, feeling that the afternoon had not been spent in vain.
Slowly he began, as if almost thinking aloud, "I suppose you are right, Lemuel Weeks, in what you say about selling the place. The Lord knows I don't want to leave it. I was born and brougbitcoin cash blockchain sizeht up here, and that counts with some people. If your wife's cousin is willing to come and help me make a living, for such wages as I can pay, the arrangement might be made. But I want to look on it as a business arrangement. I have quiet ways of my own, and things belonging to the past to think about, and I've got a right to think about 'em. I aint one of the marrying kind, and I don't want people to be a-considering such notions when I don't. I'd be kind and all that to her and her little girl, but I should want to be left to myself as far as I could be.""Oh, certainly," said Mr. Weeks, mentally chuckling over the slight prospect of such immunity, "but you must remember that Mrs. Mumpson isn't like common help--"
"That's where the trouble will come in," ejaculated the perplexed farmer, "but there's been trouble enough with the other sort.""I should say so," Mr. Weeks remarked emphatically. "It would be a pity if you couldn't get along with such a respectable, conscientious woman as Mrs. Mumpson, who comes from one of the best families in the country."Holcroft removed his hat and passed his hand over his brow wearily as he said, "Oh, I could get along with anyone who would do the work in a way that would give me a chance to make a little, and then leave me to myself.""Well, well," said Mr. Weeks, laughing, "you needn't think that because I've hinted at a good match for you I'm making one for my wife's cousin. You may see the day when you'll be more hot for it than she is. All I'm, trying to do is to help you keep your place, and live like a man ought and stop people's mouths.""If I could only fill my own and live in peace, it's all I ask. When I get to plowing and planting again I'll begin to take some comfort."
These words were quoted against Holcroft, far and near. "Filling his own mouth and making a little money are all he cares for," was the general verdict. And thus people are misunderstood. The farmer had never turned anyone hungry from his door, and he would have gone to the poorhouse rather than have acted the part of the man who misrepresented him. He had only meant to express the hope that he might be able to fill his mouth--earn his bread, and get it from his native soil. "Plowing and planting"--working where he had toiled since a child---would be a solace in itself, and not a grudged means to a sordid end.Mr. Weeks was a thrifty man also, and in nothing was he more economical than in charitable views of his neighbors' motives and conduct. He drove homeward with the complacent feeling that he had done a shrewd, good thing for himself and "his folks" at least. His wife's cousin was not exactly embraced in the latter category, although he had been so active in her behalf. The fact was, he would be at much greater pains could he attach her to Holcroft or anyone else and so prevent further periodical visits."A dead man takes you once more by the hand. My last thought, thankGod, is France. For her sake and mine, Raynal. GO FOR GENERALBONAPARTE. Tell him, from a dying soldier, the Rhine is a river tothese generals, but to him a field of glory. He will lay out ourlives, not waste them."There was nothing to hinder Raynal from carrying out this sacredrequest: for the 24th brigade had ceased to exist: already thinnedby hard service, it was reduced to a file or two by the fatalbastion. It was incorporated with the 12th; and Raynal rode heavyat heart to Paris, with a black scarf across his breast.
Chapter 23You see now into what a fatal entanglement two high-minded youngladies were led, step by step, through yielding to the naturalfoible of their sex--the desire to hide everything painful fromthose they love, even at the expense of truth.A nice mess they made of it with their amiable dishonesty. And praytake notice that after the first White Lie or two, circumstancesoverpowered them, and drove them on against their will. It was nosmall part of all their misery that they longed to get back to truthand could not.We shall see presently how far they succeeded in that pious object,for the sake of which they first entered on concealments. But firsta word is due about one of the victims of their amiable, self-sacrificing lubricity. Edouard Riviere fell in one night, fromhappiness and confidence, such as till that night be had neverenjoyed, to deep and hopeless misery.
He lost that which, to every heart capable of really loving, is thegreatest earthly blessing, the woman he adored. But worse thanthat, he lost those prime treasures of the masculine soul, belief inhuman goodness, and in female purity. To him no more could there bein nature a candid eye, a virtuous ready-mantling cheek: for frailtyand treachery had put on these signs of virtue and nobility.Henceforth, let him live a hundred years, whom could he trust orbelieve in?
Here was a creature whose virtues seemed to make frailty impossible:treachery, doubly impossible: a creature whose very faults--forfaults she had--had seemed as opposite to treachery as her veryvirtues were. Yet she was all frailty and falsehood.He passed in that one night of anguish from youth to age. He wentabout his business like a leaden thing. His food turned tasteless.His life seemed ended. Nothing appeared what it had been. The verylandscape seemed cut in stone, and he a stone in the middle of it,and his heart a stone in him. At times, across that heavy heartcame gushes of furious rage and bitter mortification; his heart wasbroken, and his faith was gone, for his vanity had been stabbed asfiercely as his love. "Georges Dandin!" he would cry, "curse her!
curse her!" But love and misery overpowered these heats, and frozehim to stone again.The poor boy pined and pined. His clothes hung loose about him; hisface was so drawn with suffering, you would not have known him. Hehated company. The things he was expected to talk about!--he withhis crushed heart. He could not. He would not. He shunned all theworld; he went alone like a wounded deer. The good doctor, on hisreturn from Paris, called on him to see if he was ill: since he hadnot come for days to the chateau. He saw the doctor coming and badethe servant say he was not in the village.He drew down the blind, that he might never see the chateau again.He drew it up again: he could not exist without seeing it. "Shewill be miserable, too," he cried, gnashing his teeth. "She willsee whether she has chosen well." At other times, all his courage,and his hatred, and his wounded vanity, were drowned in his love andits despair, and then he bowed his head, and sobbed and cried as ifhis heart would burst. One morning he was so sobbing with his headon the table, when his landlady tapped at his door. He started upand turned his head away from the door.
"A young woman from Beaurepaire, monsieur.""From Beaurepaire?" his heart gave a furious leap. "Show her in."He wiped his eyes and seated himself at a table, and, all in aflutter, pretended to be the state's.It was not Jacintha, as he expected, but the other servant. Shemade a low reverence, cast a look of admiration on him, and gave hima letter. His eye darted on it: his hand trembled as he took it.
He turned away again to open it. He forced himself to say, in atolerably calm voice, "I will send an answer."The letter was apparently from the baroness de Beaurepaire; a mereline inviting him to pay her a visit. It was written in a tremuloushand. Edouard examined the writing, and saw directly it was writtenby Rose.Being now, naturally enough, full of suspicion, he set this down asan attempt to disguise her hand. "So," said he, to himself, "thisis the game. The old woman is to be drawn into it, too. She is tohelp to make Georges Dandin of me. I will go. I will baffle themall. I will expose this nest of depravity, all ceremony on thesurface, and voluptuousness and treachery below. O God! who couldbelieve that creature never loved me! They shall none of them seemy weakness. Their benefactor shall be still their superior. Theyshall see me cold as ice, and bitter as gall."But to follow him farther just now, would be to run too far inadvance of the main story. I must, therefore, return toBeaurepaire, and show, amongst other things, how this very lettercame to be written.
When Josephine and Rose awoke from that startled slumber thatfollowed the exhaustion of that troubled night, Rose was the morewretched of the two. She had not only dishonored herself, butstabbed the man she loved.Josephine, on the other hand, was exhausted, but calm. The fearfulescape she had had softened down by contrast her more distantterrors.She began to shut her eyes again, and let herself drift. Above all,the doctor's promise comforted her: that she should go to Paris withhim, and have her boy.This deceitful calm of the heart lasted three days.Carefully encouraged by Rose, it was destroyed by Jacintha.Jacintha, conscious that she had betrayed her trust, was almostheart-broken. She was ashamed to appear before her young mistress,and, coward-like, wanted to avoid knowing even how much harm she haddone.
She pretended toothache, bound up her face, and never stirred fromthe kitchen. But she was not to escape: the other servant came downwith a message: "Madame Raynal wanted to see her directly."She came quaking, and found Josephine all alone.Josephine rose to meet her, and casting a furtive glance round theroom first, threw her arms round Jacintha's neck, and embraced herwith many tears.
"Was ever fidelity like yours? how COULD you do it, Jacintha? andhow can I ever repay it? But, no; it is too base of me to acceptsuch a sacrifice from any woman."Jacintha was so confounded she did not know what to say. But it wasa mystification that could not endure long between two women, whowere both deceived by a third. Between them they soon discoveredthat it must have been Rose who had sacrificed herself."And Edouard has never been here since," said Josephine.
"And never will, madame.""Yes, he shall! there must be some limit even to my feebleness, andmy sister's devotion. You shall take a line to him from me. I willwrite it this moment."The letter was written. But it was never sent. Rose foundJosephine and Jacintha together; saw a letter was being written,asked to see it; on Josephine's hesitating, snatched it out of herhand, read it, tore it to pieces, and told Jacintha to leave theroom. She hated the sight of poor Jacintha, who had slept at thevery moment when all depended on her watchfulness."So you were going to send to HIM, unknown to me.""Forgive me, Rose." Rose burst out crying.
"O Josephine! is it come to this? Would you deceive ME?""You have deceived ME! Yes! it has come to that. I know all.Twill not consent to destroy ALL I love."She then begged hard for leave to send the letter.Rose gave an impetuous refusal. "What could you say to him? foolishthing, don't you know him, and his vanity? When you had exposedyourself to him, and showed him I had insulted him for you, do youthink he would forgive me? No! this is to make light of my love--tomake me waste the sacrifice I have made. I feel that sacrifice asmuch as you do, more perhaps, and I would rather die in a conventthan waste that night of shame and agony. Come, promise me, no moreattempts of that kind, or we are sisters no more, friends no more,one heart and one blood no more."The weaker nature, weakened still more by ill-health and grief, wasterrified into submission, or rather temporized. "Kiss me then,"said Josephine, "and love me to the end. Ah, if I was only in mygrave!"Rose kissed her with many sighs, but Josephine smiled. Rose eyedher with suspicion. That deep smile; what did it mean? She hadformed some resolution. "She is going to deceive me somehow,"thought Rose.From that day she watched Josephine like a spy. Confidence was gonebetween them. Suspicion took its place.
Rose was right in her misgivings. The moment Josephine saw thatEdouard's happiness and Rose's were to be sacrificed for her whomnothing could make happy, the poor thing said to herself, "I CANDIE."And that was the happy thought that made her smile.The doctor gave her laudanum: he found she could not sleep: and hethought it all-important that she should sleep.
Josephine, instead of taking these small doses, saved them all up,secreted them in a phial, and so, from the sleep of a dozen nights,collected the sleep of death: and now she was tranquil. This youngcreature that could not bear to give pain to any one else, preparedher own death with a calm resolution the heroes of our sex have notoften equalled. It was so little a thing to her to strikeJosephine. Death would save her honor, would spare her thefrightful alternative of deceiving her husband, or of telling himshe was another's. "Poor Raynal," said she to herself, "it is socruel to tie him to a woman who can never be to him what hedeserves. Rose would then prove her innocence to Edouard. A fewtears for a weak, loving soul, and they would all be happy andforget her."One day the baroness, finding herself alone with Rose and Dr.Aubertin, asked the latter what he thought of Josephine's state.
"Oh, she was better: had slept last night without her usualnarcotic."The baroness laid down her knitting and said, with much meaning,"And I tell you, you will never cure her body till you can cure hermind. My poor child has some secret sorrow.""Sorrow!" said Aubertin, stoutly concealing the uneasiness thesewords created, "what sorrow?""Oh, she has some deep sorrow. And so have you, Rose.""Me, mamma! what DO you mean?"The baroness's pale cheek flushed a little. "I mean," said she,"that my patience is worn out at last; I cannot live surrounded bysecrets. Raynal's gloomy looks when he left us, after staying butone hour; Josephine ill from that day, and bursting into tears atevery word; yourself pale and changed, hiding an unaccountablesadness under forced smiles-- Now, don't interrupt me. Edouard,who was almost like a son, gone off, without a word, and never comesnear us now.""Really you are ingenious in tormenting yourself. Josephine is ill!Well, is it so very strange? Have you never been ill? Rose ispale! you ARE pale, my dear; but she has nursed her sister for amonth; is it a wonder she has lost color? Edouard is gone ajourney, to inherit his uncle's property: a million francs. Butdon't you go and fall ill, like Josephine; turn pale, like Rose; andmake journeys in the region of fancy, after Edouard Riviere, who istramping along on the vulgar high road."This tirade came from Aubertin, and very clever he thought himself.
But he had to do with a shrewd old lady, whose suspicions had longsmouldered; and now burst out. She said quietly, "Oh, then Edouardis not in this part of the world. That alters the case: where IShe?""In Normandy, probably," said Rose, blushing.The baroness looked inquiringly towards Aubertin. He put on aninnocent face and said nothing."Very good," said the baroness. "It's plain I am to learn nothingfrom you two. But I know somebody who will be more communicative.Yes: this uncomfortable smiling, and unreasonable crying, andinterminable whispering; these appearances of the absent, anddisappearances of the present; I shall know this very day what theyall mean.""Really, I do not understand you.""Oh, never mind; I am an old woman, and I am in my dotage. For allthat, perhaps you will allow me two words alone with my daughter.""I retire, madame," and he disappeared with a bow to her, and ananxious look at Rose. She did not need this; she clenched herteeth, and braced herself up to stand a severe interrogatory.
Mother and daughter looked at one another, as if to measure forces,and then, instead of questioning her as she had intended, thebaroness sank back in her chair and wept aloud. Rose was allunprepared for this. She almost screamed in a voice of agony, "Omamma! mamma! O God! kill me where I stand for making my motherweep!""My girl," said the baroness in a broken voice, and with the mosttouching dignity, "may you never know what a mother feels who findsherself shut out from her daughters' hearts. Sometimes I think itis my fault; I was born in a severer age. A mother nowadays seemsto be a sort of elder sister. In my day she was something more.Yet I loved my mother as well, or better than I did my sisters. Butit is not so with those I have borne in my bosom, and nursed upon myknee."At this Rose flung herself, sobbing and screaming, at her mother'sknees. The baroness was alarmed. "Come, dearest, don't cry likethat. It is not too late to take your poor old mother into yourconfidence. What is this mystery? and why this sorrow? How comesit I intercept at every instant glances that were not intended forme? Why is the very air loaded with signals and secrecy? (Rosereplied only by sobs.) Is some deceit going on? (Rose sobbed.) AmI to have no reply but these sullen sobs? will you really tell menothing?""I've nothing to tell," sobbed Rose.
"Well, then, will you do something for me?"Such a proposal was not only a relief, but a delight to thedeceiving but loving daughter. She started up crying, "Oh, yes,mamma; anything, everything. Oh, thank you!" In the ardor of hergratitude, she wanted to kiss her mother; but the baroness declinedthe embrace politely, and said, coldly and bitterly, "I shall notask much; I should not venture now to draw largely on youraffection; it's only to write a few lines for me."Rose got paper and ink with great alacrity, and sat down allbeaming, pen in hand.The baroness dictated the letter slowly, with an eye gimleting herdaughter all the time.
"Dear--Monsieur--Riviere."The pen fell from Rose's hand, and she turned red and then pale."What! write to him?""Not in your own name; in mine. But perhaps you prefer to give methe trouble.""Cruel! cruel!" sighed Rose, and wrote the words as requested.