In the morning all the old, prosaic problems of his life would return, with their hard, practical insistence, and he knew that he must decide upon something very soon. His lonely vigils and days of quiet had brought him to the conclusion thaethereum identity managementt he could not hunt up a wife as a matter of business. He would rather face the "ever angry bears" than breathe the subject of matrimony to any woman that he could ever imagine himself marrying. He was therefore steadily drifting toward the necessity of selling everything and going away. This event, however, was like a coral reef to a sailor, with no land in view beyond it. The only thing which seemed certain was the general breaking up of all that had hitherto made his life.
The shot had actuallyhow to buy bitcoin from blockchain app driven a splinter of bone out of the sutlerinto Dard's temple."I am the unluckiest fellow in the army," remonstrated Dard: and hestamped in a circle.
"Seems to me you are only the second unluckiest this time," said ayoung soldier with his mouth full; and, with a certain dry humor, hepointed vaguely over his shoulder with the fork towards the corpse.The trenches laughed and assented.This want of sympathy and justice irritated Dard. "You cursedfools!" cried he. "He is gone where we must all go--without anytrouble. But look at me. I am always getting barked. Dogs ofPrussians! they pick me out among a thousand. I shall have aheadache all the afternoon, you see else."Some of our heads would never have ached again: but Dard had a goodthick skull.Dard pulled out his spilikin savagely."I'll wrap it up in paper for Jacintha," said he. "Then that willlearn her what a poor soldier has to go through."Even this consolation was denied Private Dard.
Corporal Coriolanus Gand, a bit of an infidel from Lyons, whosometimes amused himself with the Breton's superstition, told himwith a grave face, that the splinter belonged not to him, but to thesutler, and, though so small, was doubtless a necessary part of hisframe."If you keep that, it will be a bone of contention between you two,"said he; "especially at midnight. HE WILL BE ALWAYS COMING BACK TOYOU FOR IT.""There, take it away!" said the Breton hastily, "and bury it withthe poor fellow."Sergeant La Croix presented himself before the colonel with a ruefulface and saluted him and said, "Colonel, I beg a thousand pardons;your dinner has been spilt--a shot from the bastion.""No matter," said the colonel. "Give me a piece of bread instead."La Croix went for it himself, and on his return found Cadel sittingon one side of Death's Alley, and Dard with his head bound up on theother. They had got a bottle which each put up in turn wherever hefancied the next round shot would strike, and they were bettingtheir afternoon rations which would get the Prussians to hit thebottle first.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."No matter; I will be guarded on every side.""Mustn't I stop and just see her happy for once?""No, my poor Jacintha, you must hear it from my lips."Jacintha retired to keep watch as she was bid. Rose went toJosephine's room, and threw her arms round her neck and kissed hervehemently. Josephine returned her embrace, then held her out atarm's length and looked at her.
"Your eyes are red, yet your little face is full of joy. There, yousmile.""I can't help that; I am so happy.""I am glad of it. Are you coming to bed?""Not yet. I invite you to take a little walk with me first. Come!"and she led the way slowly, looking back with infinite archness andtenderness."You almost frighten me," said Josephine; "it is not like you to beall joy when I am sad. Three whole weeks more!""That is it. Why are you sad? because the doctor would not let yougo to Frejus. And why am I not sad? because I had already thoughtof a way to let you see Edouard without going so far.""Rose! O Rose! O Rose!""This way--come!" and she smiled and beckoned with her finger, whileJosephine followed like one under a spell, her bosom heaving, hereye glancing on every side, hoping some strange joy, yet scarcedaring to hope.
Rose drew back the screen, and there was a sweet little berceau thathad once been Josephine's own, and in it, sunk deep in snow-whitelawn, was a sleeping child, that lay there looking as a rose mightlook could it fall upon new-fallen snow.At sight of it Josephine uttered a little cry, not loud but deep--ay, a cry to bring tears into the eye of the hearer, and she stoodtrembling from head to foot, her hands clasped, and her eyefascinated and fixed on the cradle.
"My child under this roof! What have you done?" but her eye,fascinated and fixed, never left the cradle."I saw you languishing, dying, for want of him.""Oh, if anybody should come?" But her eye never stirred an inchfrom the cradle."No, no, no! the door is locked. Jacintha watches below; there isno dan-- Ah, oh, poor sister!"For, as Rose was speaking, the young mother sprang silently upon herchild. You would have thought she was going to kill him; her headreared itself again and again like a crested snake's, and again andagain and again and again plunged down upon the child, and shekissed his little body from head to foot with soft violence, andmurmured, through her streaming tears, "My child! my darling! myangel! oh, my poor boy! my child! my child!"I will ask my female readers of every degree to tell their brothersand husbands all the young noble did: how she sat on the floor, andhad her child on her bosom; how she smiled over it through hertears; how she purred over it; how she, the stately one, lisped andprattled over it; and how life came pouring into her heart from it.Before she had had it in her arms five minutes, her pale cheek wasas red as a rose, and her eyes brighter than diamonds.
"Bless you, Rose! bless you! bless you! in one moment you have mademe forget all I ever suffered in my life.""There is a cold draught," cried she presently, with maternalanxiety; "close the panel, Rose.""No, dear; or I could not call to Jacintha, or she to me; but I willshift the screen round between him and the draught. There, now,come to his aunt--a darling!"Then Rose sat on the floor too, and Josephine put her boy on aunt'slap, and took a distant view of him. But she could not bear so vasta separation long. She must have him to her bosom again.Presently my lord, finding himself hugged, opened his eyes, and, asa natural consequence, his mouth.
"Oh, that will never do," cried Rose, and they put him back in thecradle with all expedition, and began to rock it. Young master wasnot to be altogether appeased even by that. So Rose began singingan old-fashioned Breton chant or lullaby.Josephine sang with her, and, singing, watched with a smile her boydrop off by degrees to sleep under the gentle motion and the lullingsong. They sang and rocked till the lids came creeping down, andhid the great blue eyes; but still they sang and rocked, lulling theboy, and gladdening their own hearts; for the quaint old Bretonditty was tunable as the lark that carols over the green wheat inApril; and the words so simple and motherly, that a nation had takenthem to heart. Such songs bind ages together and make the lofty andthe low akin by the great ties of music and the heart. Many aBreton peasant's bosom in the olden time had gushed over hersleeping boy as the young dame's of Beaurepaire gushed now--in thisquaint, tuneful lullaby.
Now, as they kneeled over the cradle, one on each side, and rockedit, and sang that ancient chant, Josephine, who was opposite thescreen, happening to raise her eyes, saw a strange thing.There was the face of a man set close against the side of thescreen, and peeping and peering out of the gloom. The light of hercandle fell full on this face; it glared at her, set pale, wonder-struck, and vivid in the surrounding gloom.
Horror! It was her husband's face.At first she was quite stupefied, and looked at it with soul andsenses benumbed. Then she trembled, and put her hand to her eyes;for she thought it a phantom or a delusion of the mind. No: thereit glared still. Then she trembled violently, and held out her lefthand, the fingers working convulsively, to Rose, who was stillsinging.But, at the same moment, the mouth of this face suddenly opened in along-drawn breath. At this, Josephine uttered a violent shriek, andsprang to her feet, with her right hand quivering and pointing atthat pale face set in the dark.Rose started up, and, wheeling her head round, saw Raynal's gloomyface looking over her shoulder. She fell screaming upon her knees,and, almost out of her senses, began to pray wildly and piteouslyfor mercy.
Josephine uttered one more cry, but this was the faint cry ofnature, sinking under the shock of terror. She swooned dead away,and fell senseless on the floor ere Raynal could debarrass himselfof the screen, and get to her.This, then, was the scene that met Edouard's eyes. His affiancedbride on her knees, white as a ghost, trembling, and screaming,rather than crying, for mercy. And Raynal standing over his wife,showing by the working of his iron features that he doubted whethershe was worthy he should raise her.
One would have thought nothing could add to the terror of thisscene. Yet it was added to. The baroness rang her bell violentlyin the room below. She had heard Josephine's scream and fall.At the ringing of this shrill bell Rose shuddered like a maniac, andgrovelled on her knees to Raynal, and seized his very knees andimplored him to show some pity.
"O sir! kill us! we are culpable"--Dring! dring! dring! dring! dring! pealed the baroness's bell again."But do not tell our mother. Oh, if you are a man! do not! do not!