"Alida," he began hesitatingly, "aftbuy usdt in australiaer I left you this noon I felt I must speak with and be frank with you."
"Of course I would be permittebest solana walletd to visit my child from time to time? He couldn't be so monstrously hard-hearted as--""Oh, nonsense!" cried Watterly impatiently. "The idea of his letting you come to his house after what you've said about him! I've no time to waste in foolishness, or he either. He will let Jane visit you, but you are to sign this paper and keep the agreement not to go near him or make any trouble whatever."
"It's an abominable--""Tut! Tut! That kind of talk isn't allowed here. If you can't decide like a sane woman the law'll soon decide for you."As was always the case when Mrs. Mumpson reached the inevitable, she yielded; the paper was signed, and Jane, who had already made up her small bundle, nodded triumphantly to her mother and followed Watterly. Mrs. Mumpson, on tiptoe, followed also, bent on either propitiating Holcroft and so preparing the way for a visit, or else on giving him once more a "piece of her mind.""All right, Holcroft!" said Watterly, as he entered the office, "here's the paper signed. Was there ever such an id-----""Oh, how do you do, Mr. Holcroft?" cried the widow, bursting in and rushing forward with extended hand.
The farmer turned away and looked as if made of stone.Changing her tactics instantly, she put her handkerchief to her eyes and moaned, "You never can have the heart to say I can't come and see my child. I've signed writings, 'tis true, under threats and compulsions; but I trust there will be relentings--"I will say one word to Madame Raynal, and she will buy him asubstitute directly."Dard stopped her sullenly. "No! I have told all in the village thatI would go the first chance: it is come, and I'll go. I won't stayto be laughed at about this too. If I was sure to be cut in pieces,I'd go. Give over blubbering, girl, and get us a bottle of the bestwine, and while we are drinking it, the sergeant and I, you make upmy bundle. I shall never do any good here."Jacintha knew the obstinate toad. She did as she was bid, and soonthe little bundle was ready, and the two men faced the wine; LaCroix, radiant and bellicose; Dard, crestfallen but dogged (forthere was a little bit of good stuff at the bottom of the creature);and Jacintha rocking herself, with her apron over her head.
"I'll give you a toast," said La Croix. "Here's gunpowder."Jacintha promptly honored the toast with a flood of tears."Drop that, Jacintha," said Dard, angrily; "do you think that isencouraging? Sergeant, I told this poor girl all about glory beforeyou came, but she was not ripe for it: say something to cheer herup, for I can't.""I can," cried this trumpet of battle, emptying its glass."Attention, young woman.""Oh, dear! oh, dear! yes, sir.""A French soldier is a man who carries France in his heart"--"But if the cruel foreign soldiers kill him? Oh!""Why, in that case, he does not care a straw. Every man must die;horses likewise, and dogs, and donkeys, when they come to the end oftheir troubles; but dogs and donkeys and chaps in blouses can't diegloriously; as Dard may, if he has any luck at all: so, from thishour, if there was twice as little of him, be proud of him, for fromthis time he is a part of France and her renown. Come, recruitninety-nine, shoulder your traps at duty's call, and let us go forthin form. Attention! Quick--march! Halt! is that the way I showedyou to march? Didn't I tell you to start from the left? Now tryagain. QUICK--march! left--right--left--right--left--right--NOWyou've--GOT it--DRAT ye,--KEEP it--left--right--left--right--left--right." And with no more ado the sergeant marched the little odd-job man to the wars.VIVE LA FRANCE!
Chapter 18Edouard, the moment his temper cooled, became very sad. He longedto be friends again with Rose, but did not know how. His own prideheld him back, and so did his fear that he had gone too far, andthat his offended mistress would not listen to an offer ofreconciliation from him. He sat down alone now to all his littlemeals. No sweet, mellow voices in his ear after the fatigues of theday. It was a dismal change in his life.
At last, one day, he received three lines from Josephine, requestinghim to come and speak to her. He went over directly, full of vaguehopes. He found her seated pale and languid in a small room on theground floor."What has she been doing to you, dear?" began she kindly."Has she not told you, Madame Raynal?""No; she is refractory. She will tell me nothing, and that makes mefear she is the one in fault.""Oh! if she does not accuse me, I am sure I will not accuse her. Idare say I am to blame; it is not her fault that I cannot make herlove me.""But you can. She does.""Yes; but she loves others better, and she holds me out no hope itwill ever be otherwise. On this one point how can I hope for yoursympathy; unfortunately for me you are one of my rivals. She toldme plainly she never could love me as she loves you.""And you believed her?""I had good reason to believe her."Josephine smiled sadly. "Dear Edouard," said she, "you must notattach so much importance to every word we say. Does Rose at herage know everything? Is she a prophet? Perhaps she really fanciesshe will always love her sister as she does now; but you are a manof sense; you ought to smile and let her talk. When you marry heryou will take her to your own house; she will only see me now andthen; she will have you and your affection always present. Each daysome new tie between you and her. You two will share every joy,every sorrow. Your children playing at your feet, and reflectingthe features of both parents, will make you one. Your hearts willmelt together in that blessed union which raises earth so near toheaven; and then you will wonder you could ever be jealous of poorJosephine, who must never hope--ah, me!"Edouard, wrapped up in himself, mistook Josephine's emotion at thepicture she had drawn of conjugal love. He soothed her, and vowedupon his honor he never would separate Rose from her."Madame Raynal," said he, "you are an angel, and I am a fiend.
Jealousy must be the meanest of all sentiments. I never will bejealous again, above all, of you, sweet angel. Why, you are mysister as well as hers, and she has a right to love you, for I loveyou myself.""You make me very happy when you talk so," sighed Josephine. "Peaceis made?""Never again to be broken. I will go and ask her pardon. What isthe matter now?"For Jacintha was cackling very loud, and dismissing with ignominytwo beggars, male and female.She was industry personified, and had no sympathy with mendicity.In vain the couple protested, Heaven knows with what truth, thatthey were not beggars, but mechanics out of work. "March! tramp!"was Jacintha's least word. She added, giving the rein to herimagination, "I'll loose the dog." The man moved away, the womanturned appealingly to Edouard. He and Josephine came towards thegroup. She had got a sort of large hood, and in that hood shecarried an infant on her shoulders. Josephine inspected it. "Itlooks sickly, poor little thing," said she."What can you expect, young lady?" said the woman. "Its mother hadto rise and go about when she ought to have been in her bed, and nowshe has not enough to give it.""Oh, dear!" cried Josephine. "Jacintha, give them some food and anice bottle of wine.""That I will," cried Jacintha, changing her tone with courtier-likealacrity. "I did not see she was nursing."Josephine put a franc into the infant's hand; the little fingersclosed on it with that instinct of appropriation, which is our firstand often our last sentiment. Josephine smiled lovingly on thechild, and the child seeing that gave a small crow.
"Bless it," said Josephine, and thereupon her lovely head reareditself like a snake's, and then darted down on the child; and theyoung noble kissed the beggar's brat as if she would eat it.This won the mother's heart more than even the gifts.
"Blessings on you, my lady!" she cried. "I pray the Lord not toforget this when a woman's trouble comes on you in your turn! It isa small child, mademoiselle, but it is not an unhealthy one. See."Inspection was offered, and eagerly accepted.Edouard stood looking on at some distance in amazement, mingled withdisgust.
"Ugh!" said he, when she rejoined him, "how could you kiss thatnasty little brat?""Dear Edouard, don't speak so of a poor little innocent. Who wouldpity them if we women did not? It had lovely eyes.""Like saucers.""Yes.""It is no compliment when you are affectionate to anybody; youoverflow with benevolence on all creation, like the rose which shedsits perfume on the first-comer.""If he is not going to be jealous of me next," whined Josephine.She took him to Rose, and she said, "There, whenever good friendsquarrel, it is understood they were both in the wrong. Bygones areto be bygones; and when your time comes round to quarrel again,please consult me first, since it is me you will afflict." She leftthem together, and went and tapped timidly at the doctor's study.Aubertin received her with none of that reserve she had seen in him.He appeared both surprised and pleased at her visit to his littlesanctum. He even showed an emotion Josephine was at a loss toaccount for. But that wore off during the conversation, and,indeed, gave place to a sort of coldness."Dear friend," said she, "I come to consult you about Rose andEdouard." She then told him what had happened, and hinted atEdouard's one fault. The doctor smiled. "It is curious. You havecome to draw my attention to a point on which it has been fixed forsome days past. I am preparing a cure for the two young fools; asevere remedy, but in their case a sure one."He then showed her a deed, wherein he had settled sixty thousandfrancs on Rose and her children. "Edouard," said he, "has a goodplace. He is active and rising, and with my sixty thousand francs,and a little purse of ten thousand more for furniture and nonsense,they can marry next week, if they like. Yes, marriage is asovereign medicine for both of these patients. She does not lovehim quite enough. Cure: marriage. He loves her a little too much.Cure: marriage.""O doctor!""Can't help it. I did not make men and women. We must take humannature as we find it, and thank God for it on the whole. Have younothing else to confide to me?""No, doctor.""Are you sure?""No, dear friend. But this is very near my heart," falteredJosephine.
The doctor sighed; then said gently, "They shall be happy: as happyas you wish them."Meantime, in another room, a reconciliation scene was taking place,and the mutual concessions of two impetuous but generous spirits.The baroness noticed the change in Josephine's appearance.
She asked Rose what could be the matter."Some passing ailment," was the reply.
"Passing? She has been so, on and off, a long time. She makes mevery anxious."Rose made light of it to her mother, but in her own heart she grewmore and more anxious day by day. She held secret conferences withJacintha; that sagacious personage had a plan to wake Josephine fromher deathly languor, and even soothe her nerves, and check thosepitiable fits of nervous irritation to which she had become subject.Unfortunately, Jacintha's plan was so difficult and so dangerous,that at first even the courageous Rose recoiled from it; but thereare dangers that seem to diminish when you look them long in theface.
The whole party was seated in the tapestried room: Jacintha wasthere, sewing a pair of sheets, at a respectful distance from thegentlefolks, absorbed in her work; but with both ears on full cock.The doctor, holding his glasses to his eye, had just begun to readout the Moniteur.The baroness sat close to him, Edouard opposite; and the youngladies each in her corner of a large luxurious sofa, at some littledistance."'The Austrians left seventy cannon, eight thousand men, and threecolors upon the field. Army of the North: General Menard defeatedthe enemy after a severe engagement, taking thirteen field-piecesand a quantity of ammunition.'"The baroness made a narrow-minded renmark. "That is always the waywith these journals," said she. "Austrians! Prussians! when it'sEgypt one wants to hear about."--"No, not a word about Egypt," saidthe doctor; "but there is a whole column about the Rhine, whereColonel Dujardin is--and Dard. If I was dictator, the firstnuisance I would put down is small type." He then spelled out asanguinary engagement: "eight thousand of the enemy killed. We havesome losses to lament. Colonel Dujardin"--"Only wounded, I hope," said the baroness.
The doctor went coolly on. "At the head of the 24th brigade made abrilliant charge on the enemy's flank, that is described in thegeneral order as having decided the fate of the battle.""How badly you do read," said the old lady, sharply. "I thought hewas gone; instead of that he has covered himself with glory; but itis all our doing, is it not, young ladies? We saved his life.""We saved it amongst us, madame.""What is the matter, Rose?" said Edouard."Nothing: give me the salts, quick."She only passed them, as it were, under her own nostrils; then heldthem to Josephine, who was now observed to be trembling all over.
Rose contrived to make it appear that this was mere sympathy onJosephine's part."Don't be silly, girls," cried the baroness, cheerfully; "there isnobody killed that we care about."Dr. Aubertin read the rest to himself.
Edouard fell into a gloomy silence and tortured himself aboutCamille, and Rose's anxiety and agitation.By and by the new servant brought in a letter. It was the long-expected one from Egypt.
"Here is something better than salts for you. A long letter,Josephine, and all in his own hand; so he is safe, thank Heaven! Iwas beginning to be uneasy again. You frightened me for that poorCamille: but this is worth a dozen Camilles; this is my son; I wouldgive my old life for him."--"My dear Mother--('Bless him!'), my dearwife, and my dear sister--('Well! you sit there like two rocks!')--We have just gained a battle--fifty colors. ('What do you think ofthat?') All the enemy's baggage and ammunition are in our hands.('This is something like a battle, this one.') Also the Pasha ofNatolie. ('Ah! the Pasha of Natolie; an important personage, nodoubt, though I never had the honor of hearing of him. Do youhear?--you on the sofa. My son has captured the Pasha of Natolie.He is as brave as Caesar.') But this success is not one of thosethat lead to important results ('Never mind, a victory is avictory'), and I should not wonder if Bonaparte was to dash home anyday. If so, I shall go with him, and perhaps spend a whole day withyou, on my way to the Rhine."At this prospect a ghastly look passed quick as lightning betweenRose and Josephine.The baroness beckoned Josephine to come close to her, and read herwhat followed in a lower tone of voice.
"Tell my wife I love her more and more every day. I don't expect asmuch from her, but she will make me very happy if she can make shiftto like me as well as her family do."--"No danger! What husbanddeserves to be loved as he does? I long for his return, that hiswife, his mother, and his sister may all combine to teach this poorsoldier what happiness means. We owe him everything, Josephine, andif we did not love him, and make him happy, we should be monsters;now should we not?"Josephine stammered an assent."NOW you may read his letter: Jacintha and all," said the baronessgraciously.
The letter circulated. Meantime, the baroness conversed withAubertin in quite an undertone."My friend, look at Josephine. That girl is ill, or else she isgoing to be ill.""Neither the one nor the other, madame," said Aubertin, looking hercoolly in the face.
"But I say she is. Is a doctor's eye keener than a mother's?""Considerably," replied the doctor with cool and enviable effrontery.The baroness rose. "Now, children, for our evening walk. We shallenjoy it now.""I trust you may: but for all that I must forbid the evening air toone of the party--to Madame Raynal."The baroness came to him and whispered, "That is right. Thank you.