Towards the close of the last century the Baron de Beaurepaire livedin the chateau of that name in Brittany. His family was ofprodigious antiquity; seven successive barons had already flourishedon this spot whensolana foundation geneva a younger son of the house accompanied hisneighbor the Duke of Normandy in his descent on England, and wasrewarded by a grant of English land, on which he dug a mote andbuilt a chateau, and called it Beaurepaire (the worthy Saxons turnedthis into Borreper without delay). Since that day more than twentygentlemen of the same lineage had held in turn the original chateauand lands, and handed them down to their present lord.
In this and in other ways he showed kindly consideration, but his mind continually reverted to his work and outdoor plans with the preoccupation of one who finds that he can again give his thoughts to something from which they had been most reluctantly withdrawn. Thus Alida was left alone most of the time. When the dusk of evening came he was too tired to say much, and he retired early that he might be fresh for work again when the sun appeared. She had no regrets, for although she kept busy she was resting and her wounds were healing through the long, quiet days.tron api jsIt was the essential calm after the storm. Caring for the dairy and working the butter into firm, sweet, tempting yellow rolls were the only tasks that troubled her a little, but Holcroft assured her that she was learning these important duties faster than he had expected her to. She had several hours a day in which to ply her needle, and thus was soon enabled to replenish her scanty wardrobe.
One morning at breakfast she appeared in another gown, and although its material was calico, she had the appearance to Holcroft of being unusually well dressed. He looked pleased, but made no comment. When the cherry blossoms were fully out, an old cracked flower vase--the only one in the house--was filled with them, and they were placed in the center of the dinner table. He looked at them and her, then smilingly remarked, "I shouldn't wonder if you enjoyed those cherry blows more than anything else we have for dinner.""I want something else, though. My appetite almost frightens me.""That's famous! I needn't be ashamed of mine, then."One evening, before the week was over, he saw her busy with a rake about the door. Last year's leaves were still scattered about, with twigs and even small boughs wrested by the winds from the trees. He was provoked with himself that he had neglected the usual spring clearing away of litter, and a little irritated that she should have tried to do the work herself. He left the horses at the barn and came forward directly. "Alida," he said gravely, "there's no need of your doing such work; I don't like to see you do it.""Why," she replied, "I've heard that women in the country often milk and take care of the chickens."
"Yes, but that's very different from this work. I wouldn't like people to think I expected such things of you.""It's very easy work," she said smilingly, "easier than sweeping a room, though something like it. I used to do it at home when I was a girl. I think it does me good to do something in the open air."Josephine begged him to do nothing of the kind.
"I can save you the trouble," said she."Ah, but my instructions! my instructions!" cried the militarypedant, and ran off into the house, and left Josephine "plantedthere," as they say in France.Raynal demanded a private interview of the baroness so significantlyand unceremoniously that Rose had no alternative but to retire, butnot without a glance of defiance at the bear. She ran straight,without her bonnet, into the Pleasaunce to slake her curiosity atJosephine. That young lady was walking pensively, but turned atsight of Rose, and the sisters came together with a clash of tongues."O Rose! he has"--"Oh!"So nimbly does the female mind run on its little beaten tracks, thatit took no more than those syllables for even these innocent youngwomen to communicate that Raynal had popped.
Josephine apologized for this weakness in a hero. "It wasn't hisfault," said she. "It is your Edouard who set him to do it.""My Edouard? Don't talk in that horrid way: I have no Edouard. Yousaid 'no' of course.""Something of the kind.""What, did you not say 'no' plump?""I did not say it brutally, dear.""Josephine, you frighten me. I know you can't say 'no' to any one;and if you don't say 'no' plump to such a man as this, you might aswell say 'yes.'""Well, love," said Josephine, "you know our mother will relieve meof this; what a comfort to have a mother!"They waited for Raynal's departure, to go to the baroness. They hadto wait a long time. Moreover, when he did leave the chateau hecame straight into the Pleasaunce. At sight of him Rose seizedJosephine tight and bade her hold her tongue, as she could not say"no" plump to any one. Josephine was far from raising any objectionto the arrangement."Monsieur," said Rose, before he could get a word out, "even if shehad not declined, I could not consent."Raynal tapped his forehead reflectively, and drew forth from memorythat he had no instructions whatever to ask HER consent.
She colored high, but returned to the charge."Is her own consent to be dispensed with too? She declined thehonor, did she not?""Of course she did; but this was anticipated in my instructions. Iam to be sure and not take the first two or three refusals.""O Josephine, look at that insolent boy: he has found you out.""Insolent boy!" cried Raynal; "why, it is the referee of your ownchoosing, and as well behaved a lad as ever I saw, and a zealousofficer.""My kind friends," put in Josephine with a sweet languor, "I cannotlet you quarrel about a straw.""It is not about a straw," said Raynal, "it is about you.""The distinction involves a compliment, sir," said Josephine; thenshe turned to Rose, "Is it possible you do not see Monsieur Raynal'sstrange proposal in its true light? and you so shrewd in general.He has no personal feeling whatever in this eccentric proceeding: hewants to make us all happy, especially my mother, without seeming tolay us under too great an obligation. Surely good-nature was nevercarried so far before; ha, ha! Monsieur, I will encumber you with myfriendship forever, if you permit me, but farther than that I willnot abuse your generosity.""Now look here, mademoiselle," began Raynal bluntly, "I did startwith a good motive at first, that there's no denying. But, since Ihave been every day in your company, and seen how good and kind youare to all about you, I have turned selfish; and I say to myself,what a comfort such a wife as you would be to a soldier! Why, onlyto have you to write letters home to, would be worth half a fellow'spay. Do you know sometimes when I see the fellows writing theirletters it gives me a knock here to think I have no one at all towrite to."Josephine sighed."So you see I am not so mighty disinterested. Now, mademoiselle,you speak so charmingly, I can't tell what you mean: can't tellwhether you say 'no' because you could never like me, or whether itis out of delicacy, and you only want pressing. So I say no more atpresent: it is a standing offer. Take a day to consider. Take twoif you like. I must go to the barracks; good-day.""Oh! this must be put an end to at once," said Rose.
"With all my heart," replied Josephine; "but how?""Come to our mother, and settle that," said the impetuous sister,and nearly dragged the languid one into the drawing-room.To their surprise they found the baroness walking up and down theroom with unusual alacrity for a person of her years. She no soonercaught sight of Josephine than she threw her arms open to her withjoyful vivacity, and kissed her warmly. "My love, you have savedus. I am a happy old woman. If I had all France to pick from Icould not have found a man so worthy of my Josephine. He is brave,he is handsome, he is young, he is a rising man, he is a good son,and good sons make good husbands--and--I shall die at Beaurepaire,shall I not, Madame the Commandante?"Josephine held her mother round the neck, but never spoke. After asilence she held her tighter, and cried a little."What is it?" asked the baroness confidentially of Rose, but withoutshowing any very profound concern."Mamma! mamma! she does not love him.""Love him? She would be no daughter of mine if she loved a man atsight. A modest woman loves her husband only.""But she scarcely knows Monsieur Raynal.""She knows more of him than I knew of your father when I marriedhim. She knows his virtues and appreciates them. I have heard her,have I not, love? Esteem soon ripens into love when they are oncefairly married.""Mother, does her silence then tell you nothing? Her tears--arethey nothing to you?""Silly child! These are tears that do not scald. The sweet soulweeps because she now for the first time sees she will have to leaveher mother. Alas! my eldest, it is inevitable. Mothers are notimmortal. While they are here it is their duty to choose goodhusbands for their daughters. My youngest, I believe, has chosenfor herself--like the nation. But for my eldest I choose. We shallsee which chooses the best. Meantime we stay at Beaurepaire, thanksto my treasure here.""Josephine! Josephine! you don't say one word," cried Rose indismay.
"What CAN I say? I love my mother and I love you. You draw medifferent ways. I want you to be both happy.""Then if you will not speak out I must. Mother, do not deceiveyourself: it is duty alone that keeps her silent: this match isodious to her.""Then we are ruined. Josephine, is this match odious to you?""Not exactly odious: but I am very, very indifferent.""There!" cried Rose triumphantly."There!" cried the baroness in the same breath, triumphantly. "Sheesteems his character; but his person is indifferent to her: inother words, she is a modest girl, and my daughter; and let me tellyou, Rose, that but for the misfortunes of our house, both mydaughters would be married as I was, without knowing half as much oftheir husbands as Josephine knows of this brave, honest, generous,filial gentleman.""Well, then, since she will not speak out, I will. Pity me: I loveher so. If this stranger, whom she does not love, takes her awayfrom us, he will kill me. I shall die; oh!"Josephine left her mother and went to console Rose.
The baroness lost her temper at this last stroke of opposition."Now the truth comes out, Rose; this is selfishness. Do not deceiveYOURself--selfishness!""Mamma!""You are only waiting to leave me yourself. Yet your eldest sister,forsooth, must be kept here for you,--till then." She added moregently, "Let me advise you to retire to your own room, and examineyour heart fairly. You will find there is a strong dash of egoismin all this.""If I do"--"You will retract your opposition.""My heart won't let me; but I will despise myself, and be silent."And the young lady, who had dried her eyes the moment she wasaccused of selfishness, walked, head erect, from the room.
Josephine cast a deprecating glance at her mother. "Yes, my angel!"said the latter, "I was harsh. But we are no longer of one mind,and I suppose never shall be again.""Oh, yes, we shall. Be patient! Mother--you shall not leaveBeaurepaire."The baroness colored faintly at these four last words of herdaughter, and hung her head.Josephine saw that, and darted to her and covered her with kisses.That day the doctor scolded them both. "You have put your motherinto a high fever," said he; "here's a pulse; I do wish you would bemore considerate."The commandant did not come to dinner as usual. The evening passedheavily; their hearts were full of uncertainty."We miss our merry, spirited companion," said the baroness with agrim look at Rose. Both young ladies assented with ludicrouseagerness.That night Rose came and slept with Josephine, and more than onceshe awoke with a start and seized Josephine convulsively and heldher tight.Accused of egoism! at first her whole nature rose in arms againstthe charge: but, after a while, coming as it did from so revered aperson, it forced her to serious self-examination. The poor girlsaid to herself, "Mamma is a shrewd woman. Am I after all deceivingmyself? Would she be happy, and am I standing in the way?" In themorning she begged her sister to walk with her in the park, so thatthey might be safe from interruption.
There, she said sadly, she could not understand her own sister."Why are you so calm and cold, while am I in tortures of anxiety?
Have you made some resolve and not confided it to your Rose?""No, love," was the reply; "I am scarce capable of a resolution; Iam a mere thing that drifts.""Let me put it in other words, then. How will this end?""I hardly know.""Do you mean to marry Monsieur Raynal, then? answer me that.""No; but I should not wonder if he were to marry ME.""But you said 'no.'""Yes, I said 'no' once.""And don't you mean to say it again, and again, and again, tillkingdom come?""What is the use? you heard him say he would not desist any themore, and I care too little about the matter to go on persisting,and persisting, and persisting.""Why not, if he goes on pestering, and pestering, and pestering?""Ah, he is like you, all energy, at all hours; but I have so littlewhere my heart is unconcerned: he seems, too, to have a wish! Ihave none either way, and my conscience says 'marry him!'""Your conscience say marry one man when you love another?""Heaven forbid! Rose, I love no one: I HAVE loved; but now my heartis dead and silent; only my conscience says, 'You are the cause ofall your mother's trouble; you are the cause that Beaurepaire wassold. Now you can repair that mischief, and at the same time make abrave man happy, our benefactor happy.' It is a great temptation: Ihardly know why I said 'no' at all; surprise, perhaps--or to pleaseyou, pretty one."Rose groaned: "Are you then worth so little that you would throwyourself away on a man who does not love you, nor want you, and isquite as happy single?""No; not happy; he is only stout-hearted and good, and thereforecontent; and he is a character that it would be easy--in short, Ifeel my power here: I could make that man happy; he has nobody towrite to even, when he is away--poor fellow!""I shall lose all patience," cried Rose; "you are at your old trick,thinking of everybody but yourself: I let you do it in trifles, butI love you too well to permit it when the happiness of your wholelife is at stake. I must be satisfied on one point, or else thismarriage shall never take place: just answer me this; if CamilleDujardin stood on one side, and Monsieur Raynal on the other, andboth asked your hand, which would you take?""That will never be. Whose? Not his whom I despise. Esteem mightripen into love, but what must contempt end in?"This reply gave Rose great satisfaction. To exhaust all awkwardcontingencies, she said, "One question more, and I have done.Suppose Camille should turn out--be not quite--what shall I say--inexcusable?"At this unlucky gush, Josephine turned pale, then red, then paleagain, and cried eagerly, "Then all the world should not part us.
Why torture me with such a question? Ah! you have heard something."And in a moment the lava of passion burst wildly through its thinsheet of ice. "I was blind. This is why you would save me fromthis unnatural marriage. You are breaking the good news to me bydegrees. There is no need. Quick--quick--let me have it. I havewaited three years; I am sick of waiting. Why don't you speak? Whydon't you tell me? Then I will tell YOU. He is alive--he is well--he is coming. It was not he those soldiers saw; they were so faroff. How could they tell? They saw a uniform but not a face.Perhaps he has been a prisoner, and so could not write; could notcome: but he is coming now. Why do you groan? why do you turn pale?
ah! I see; I have once more deceived myself. I was mad. He I loveis still a traitor to France and me, and I am wretched forever. Oh!that I were dead! oh! that I were dead! No; don't speak to me:never mind me; this madness will pass as it has before, and leave mea dead thing among the living. Ah! sister, why did you wake me frommy dream? I was drifting so calmly, so peacefully, so dead, andpainless, drifting over the dead sea of the heart towards the livingwaters of gratitude and duty. I was going to make more than oneworthy soul happy; and seeing them happy, I should have been contentand useful--what am I now?--and comforted other hearts, and diedjoyful--and young. For God is good; he releases the meek andpatient from their burdens."With this came a flood of tears; and she leaned against a bough withher forehead on her arm, bowed like a wounded lily."Accursed be that man's name, and MY tongue if ever I utter it againin your hearing!" cried Rose, weeping bitterly. "You are wiser thanI, and every way better. O my darling, dry your tears! Here hecomes: look! riding across the park.""Rose," cried Josephine, hastily, "I leave all to you. ReceiveMonsieur Raynal, and decline his offer if you think proper. It isyou who love me best. My mother would give me up for a house; foran estate, poor dear.""I would not give you for all the world.""I know it. I trust all to you.""Well, but don't go; stay and hear what I shall say.""Oh, no; that poor man is intolerable to me NOW. Let me avoid hissight, and think of his virtues."Rose was left alone, mistress of her sister's fate. She put herhead into her hands and filled with anxiety and sudden doubt.
Like a good many more of us, she had been positive so long as thedecision did not rest with her. But with power comes responsibility,with responsibility comes doubt. Easy to be an advocate inre incerta; hard to be the judge. And she had but a few secondsto think in; for Raynal was at hand. The last thing in hermind before he joined her was the terrible power of that baseCamille over her sister. She despaired of curing Josephine, but ahusband might. There's such divinity doth hedge a husband ininnocent girls' minds."Well, little lady," began Raynal, "and how are you, and how is mymother-in-law that is to be--or is not to be, as your sisterpleases; and how is SHE? have I frightened her away? There were twopetticoats, and now there is but one.""She left me to answer you.""All the worse for me: I am not to your taste.""Do not say that," said Rose, almost hysterically.
"Oh! it is no sacrilege. Not one in fifty likes me.""But IChapter 6
At Bayonne, a garrison town on the south frontier of France, twosentinels walked lethargically, crossing and recrossing before thegovernor's house. Suddenly their official drowsiness burst intoenergy; for a pale, grisly man, in rusty, defaced, dirty, and tornregimentals, was walking into the courtyard as if it belonged tohim. The sentinels lowered their muskets, and crossed them with aclash before the gateway.The scarecrow did not start back. He stopped and looked down with asmile at the steel barrier the soldiers had improvised for him, thendrew himself a little up, carried his hand carelessly to his cap,which was nearly in two, and gave the name of an officer in theFrench army.
If you or I, dressed like a beggar who years ago had stolenregimentals and worn them down to civil garments, had addressedthese soldiers with these very same words, the bayonets would havekissed closer, or perhaps the points been turned against our sacredand rusty person: but there is a freemasonry of the sword. Thelight, imperious hand that touched that battered cap, and the quietclear tone of command told. The sentinels slowly recovered theirpieces, but still looked uneasy and doubtful in their minds. Thebattered one saw this, and gave a sort of lofty smile; he turned uphis cuffs and showed his wrists, and drew himself still higher.The sentinels shouldered their pieces sharp, then dropped themsimultaneously with a clatter and ring upon the pavement."Pass, captain."The rusty figure rang the governor's bell. A servant came and eyedhim with horror and contempt. He gave his name, and begged to seethe governor. The servant left him in the hall, and went up-stairsto tell his master. At the name the governor reflected, thenfrowned, then bade his servant reach him down a certain book. Heinspected it. "I thought so: any one with him?""No, your excellency.""Load my pistols, put them on the table, show him in, and then ordera guard to the door."The governor was a stern veteran with a powerful brow, a shaggyeyebrow, and a piercing eye. He never rose, but leaned his chin onhis hand, and his elbow on a table that stood between them, and eyedhis visitor very fixedly and strangely. "We did not expect to seeyou on this side the Pyrenees," said he gravely."Nor I myself, governor.""What do you come for?""A suit of regimentals, and money to take me to Paris.""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.
The governor looked for the book he had lately consulted, found thepage, handed it to the rusty officer, and watched him keenly: theblood rushed all over his face, and his lip trembled; but his eyedwelt stern yet sorrowful on the governor."I have read your book, now read mine." He drew off his coat andshowed his wrists and arms, blue and waled. "Can you read that,sir?""No.""All the better for you: Spanish fetters, general." He showed awhite scar on his shoulder. "Can you read that? This is what I cutout of it," and he handed the governor a little round stone as bigand almost as regular as a musket-ball.
"Humph! that could hardly have been fired from a French musket.""Can you read this?" and he showed him a long cicatrix on his otherarm."Knife I think," said the governor.
"You are right, sir: Spanish knife. Can you read this?" and openinghis bosom he showed a raw wound on his breast."Oh, the devil!" cried the governor.