"Be calm when impertinent intruders come into my garden?""Mother, they are not intruders.""What do you mean?""They have a righrinkeby eth addresst to be in our Pleasaunce. They have bought thechateau.""It is impossible. HE was to buy it for us--there is some mistake--what man would kill a poor old woman like me? I will speak to thisgentleman: he wears a sword. Soldiers do not trample on women. Ah!
"Indeed I don't. I don't advise my friend's course; neither do I oppose it. He's certainly old enough to act for himself. I suppose I'm a rough counselor for a young woman, but since you appear to have so few friends I'm inclined to act as one. Just you stand on the question of right and wrong, and dismiss from your mind all foolish notions of what people will say. As a rule, all the people in the world can't do as much for us as somebody in particular. Now you go in the parlor and listen like a sensible woman. I'll be reading the paper, and the girl will be clearing off the table in the next room here."polygon crypto symbolPuzzled and trembling, Alida entered the apartment where Holcroft was seated. She was so embarrassed that she could not lift her eyes to him.
"Please sit down," he said gravely, "and don't be troubled, much less frightened. You are just as free to act as ever you were in your life."She sat down near the door and compelled herself to look at him, for she felt instinctively that she might gather more from the expression of his face than from his words."Alida Armstrong is your name, Mr. Watterly tells me?""Yes, sir.""Well, Alida, I want to have a plain business talk with you. That's nothing to be nervous and worried about, you know. As I told you, I've heard your story. It has made me sorry for you instead of setting me against you. It has made me respect you as a right-minded woman, and I shall give you good proof that my words are true. At the same time, I shan't make any false pretenses to what isn't true and couldn't be true. Since I've heard your story, it's only fair you should hear mine, and I ought to tell it first."
He went over the past very briefly until he came to the death of his wife. There was simple and homely pathos in the few sentences with which he referred to this event. Then more fully he enlarged upon his efforts and failure to keep house with hired help. Unconsciously, he had taken the best method to enlist her sympathy. The secluded cottage and hillside farm became realities to her fancy. She saw how the man's heart clung to his home, and his effort to keep it touched her deeply."Oh!" she thought, "I do wish there was some way for me to go there. The loneliness of the place which drove others away is the chief attraction for me. Then it would be pleasant to work for such a man and make his home comfortable for him. It's plain from his words and looks that he's as honest and straightforward as the day is long. He only wants to keep his home and make his living in peace."In glides Rose all sprightliness and good-humor, and puts out herhand to him; the which he kisses.
"How could I keep away so long?" asked he vaguely, and self-astonished."How indeed, and we missing you so all the time!""Have YOU missed me?" was the eager inquiry."Oh, no!" was the cheerful reply; "but all the rest have."Presently the malicious thing gave a sudden start."Oh! such a piece of news; you remember Colonel Dujardin, theobnoxious colonel?"No answer.
"Transferred his attentions. Fancy!""Who to?""To Josephine and mamma. But such are the military. He only wantedto get rid of you: this done (through your want of spirit), hescorns the rich prize; so now I scorn HIM. Will you come for awalk?""Oh, yes!""We will go and look for my deserter. I say, tell me now; cannot Iwrite to the commander-in-chief about this? a soldier has no rightto be a deserter, has he? tell me, you are a public man, and knoweverything except my heart.""Is it not too bad to tease me to-day?""Yes! but please! I have had few amusements of late. I find it sodull without you to tease."Formal permission to tease being conceded, she went that instant onthe opposite tack, and began to tell him how she had missed him, andhow sorry she had been anything should have occurred to vex theirkind good friend. In short, Edouard spent a delightful day, forRose took him one way to meet Josephine, who, she knew, was cominganother. At night the last embers of jealousy got quenched, forJosephine was a wife now, and had already begun to tell Camille allher little innocent secrets; and she told him all about Edouard andRose, and gave him his orders; so he treated Rose with great respectbefore Edouard; but paid her no marked attention; also he wasaffable to Riviere, who, having ceased to suspect, began to likehim.In the course of the evening, the colonel also informed the baronessthat he expected every day an order to join the army of the Rhine.
Edouard pricked his ears.The baroness said no more than politeness dictated. She did notpress him to stay, but treated his departure as a matter of course.Riviere rode home late in the evening in high spirits.The next day Rose varied her late deportment; she sang snatches ofmelody, going about the house; it was for all the world like a birdchirping. In the middle of one chirp Jacintha interfered. "Hush,mademoiselle, your mamma! she is at the bottom of the corridor.""What was I thinking of?" said Rose.
"Oh! I dare say you know, mademoiselle," replied the privilegeddomestic.A letter of good news came from Aubertin. That summons to hisnephew's funeral was an era in his harmless life.The said nephew was a rich man and an oddity; one of those who loveto surprise folk. Moreover, he had no children, and detected hisnephews and nieces being unnaturally civil to him. "Waiting to cutme up," was his generous reading of them. So with this he made awill, and there defied, as far as in him lay, the laws of nature;for he set his wealth a-flowing backwards instead of forwards; hehanded his property up to an ancestor, instead of down to posterity.All this the doctor's pen set down with some humor, and in the calmspirit with which a genuine philosopher receives prosperity as wellas adversity. Yet one natural regret escaped him; that all thiswealth, since it was to come, had not come a year or two sooner.
All at Beaurepaire knew what their dear old friend meant.His other news to them was that they might expect him any moment.
So here was another cause of rejoicing."I am so glad," said Josephine. "Now, perhaps, he will be able topublish his poor dear entomology, that the booksellers were all sounkind, so unfeeling about."I linger on the brink of painful scenes to observe that a sweet andloving friendship, such as this was between the good doctor andthree persons of another sex, is one of the best treasures of thehuman heart. Poverty had strengthened it; yet now wealth could notweaken it. With no tie of blood it yet was filial, sisterly,brotherly, national, chivalrous; happy, unalloyed sentiment, freefrom ups and downs, from heats and chills, from rivalry, fromcaprice; and, indeed, from all mortal accidents but one--and why sayone? methinks death itself does but suspend these gentle, rare,unselfish amities a moment, then waft them upward to their abidinghome.
Chapter 15It was a fair morning in June: the sky was a bright, deep, lovely,speckless blue: the flowers and bushes poured perfume, and sprinkledsong upon the balmy air. On such a day, so calm, so warm, sobright, so scented, so tuneful, to live and to be young is to behappy. With gentle hand it wipes all other days out of the memory;it smiles, it smells, it sings, and clouds and rain and biting windseem as far off and impossible as grief and trouble.Camille and Josephine had stolen out, and strolled lazily up anddown close under the house, drinking the sweet air, fragrant withperfume and melody; the blue sky, and love.Rose was in the house. She had missed them; but she thought theymust be near; for they seldom took long walks early in the day.Meeting Jacintha on the landing of the great staircase, she askedher where her sister was."Madame Raynal is gone for a walk. She has taken the colonel withher. You know she always takes the colonel out with her now.""That will do. You can finish your work."Jacintha went into Camille's room.
Rose, who had looked as grave as a judge while Jacintha was present,bubbled into laughter. She even repeated Jacintha's words aloud,and chuckled over them. "You know she always takes the colonel outwith her now--ha, ha, ha!""Rose!" sighed a distant voice.She looked round, and saw the baroness at some distance in thecorridor, coming slowly towards her, with eyes bent gloomily on theground. Rose composed her features into a settled gravity, and wentto meet her.
"I wish to speak with you," said the baroness; "let us sit down; itis cool here."Rose ran and brought a seat without a back, but well stuffed, andset it against the wall. The old lady sat down and leaned back, andlooked at Rose in silence a good while; then she said,--"There is room for you; sit down, for I want to speak seriously toyou.""Yes, mamma; what is it?""Turn a little round, and let me see your face."Rose complied; and began to feel a little uneasy."Perhaps you can guess what I am going to say to you?""I have no idea.""Well, I am going to put a question to you.""With all my heart, dear mamma.""I invite you to explain to me the most singular, the mostunaccountable thing that ever fell under my notice. Will you dothis for your mother?""O mamma! of course I will do anything to please you that I can;but, indeed, I don't know what you mean.""I am going to tell you."The old lady paused. The young one, naturally enough, felt a chillof vague anxiety strike across her frame.
"Rose," said the old lady, speaking very gently but firmly, andleaning in a peculiar way on her words, while her eye worked like anice gimlet on her daughter's face, "a little while ago, when my poorRaynal--our benefactor--was alive--and I was happy--you all chilledmy happiness by your gloom: the whole house seemed a house ofmourning--tell me now why was this.""Mamma!" said Rose, after a moment's hesitation, "we could hardly begay. Sickness in the house! And if Colonel Raynal was alive, stillhe was absent, and in danger.""Oh! then it was out of regard for him we were all dispirited?""Why, I suppose so," said Rose, stoutly; but then colored high ather own want of candor. However, she congratulated herself that hermother's suspicion was confined to past events.Her self-congratulation on that score was short; for the baroness,after eying her grimly for a second or two in silence, put her thisawkward question plump.
"If so, tell me why is it that ever since that black day when thenews of his DEATH reached us, the whole house has gone into black,and has gone out of mourning?""Mamma," stammered Rose, "what DO you mean?""Even poor Camille, who was so pale and wan, has recovered likemagic.""O mamma! is not that fancy?" said Rose, piteously. "Of what do yoususpect me? Can you think I am unfeeling--ungrateful? I should notbe YOUR daughter.""No, no," said the baroness, "to do you justice, you attempt sorrow;as you put on black. But, my poor child, you do it with so littleskill that one sees a horrible gayety breaking through that thindisguise: you are no true mourners: you are like the mutes or theundertakers at a funeral, forced grief on the surface of your faces,and frightful complacency below.""Tra la! lal! la! la! Tra la! la! Tra la! la!" carolled Jacintha,in the colonel's room hard by.The ladies looked at one another: Rose in great confusion."Tra la! la! la! Tra lal! lal! la! la! la!""Jacintha!" screamed Rose angrily."Hush! not a word," said the baroness. "Why remonstrate with HER?
Servants are but chameleons: they take the color of those theyserve. Do not cry. I wanted your confidence, not your tears, love.There, I will not twice in one day ask you for your heart: it wouldbe to lower the mother, and give the daughter the pain of refusingit, and the regret, sure to come one day, of having refused it. Iwill discover the meaning of it all by myself." She went away witha gentle sigh; and Rose was cut to the heart by her words; sheresolved, whatever it might cost her and Josephine, to make a cleanbreast this very day. As she was one of those who act promptly, shewent instantly in search of her sister, to gain her consent, ifpossible.
Now, the said Josephine was in the garden walking with Camille, anduttering a wife's tender solicitudes."And must you leave me? must you risk your life again so soon; thelife on which mine depends?""My dear, that letter I received from headquarters two days ago,that inquiry whether my wound was cured. A hint, Josephine--a hinttoo broad for any soldier not to take.""Camille, you are very proud," said Josephine, with an accent ofreproach, and a look of approval.
"I am obliged to be. I am the husband of the proudest woman inFrance.""Hush! not so loud: there is Dard on the grass.""Dard!" muttered the soldier with a word of meaning. "Josephine,"said he after a pause, and a little peevishly, "how much longer arewe to lower our voices, and turn away our eyes from each other, andbe ashamed of our happiness?""Five months longer, is it not?" answered Josephine quietly."Five months longer!"Josephine was hurt at this, and for once was betrayed into a seriousand merited remonstrance.
"Is this just?" said she. "Think of two months ago: yes, but twomonths ago, you were dying. You doubted my love, because it couldnot overcome my virtue and my gratitude: yet you might have seen itwas destroying my life. Poor Raynal, my husband, my benefactor,died. Then I could do more for you, if not with delicacy, at leastwith honor; but no! words, and looks, and tender offices of lovewere not enough, I must give stronger proof. Dear Camille, I havebeen reared in a strict school: and perhaps none of your sex canknow what it cost me to go to Frejus that day with him I love.""My own Josephine!""I made but one condition: that you would not rob me of my mother'srespect: to her our hasty marriage would appear monstrous,heartless. You consented to be secretly happy for six months. Onefortnight has passed, and you are discontented again.""Oh, no! do not think so. It is every word true. I am anungrateful villain.""How dare you say so? and to me! No! but you are a man.""So I have been told; but my conduct to you, sweet one, has not beenthat of a man from first to last. Yet I could die for you, with asmile on my lips. But when I think that once I lifted thissacrilegious hand against your life--oh!""Do not be silly, Camille. I love you all the better for loving mewell enough to kill me. What woman would not? I tell you, youfoolish thing, you are a man: monseigneur is one of the lordly sex,that is accustomed to have everything its own way. My love, in aworld that is full of misery, here are two that are condemned to besecretly happy a few months longer: a hard fate for one of your sex,it seems: but it is so much sweeter than the usual lot of mine, thatreally I cannot share your misery," and she smiled joyously."Then share my happiness, my dear wife.""I do; only mine is deep, not loud.""Why, Dard is gone, and we are out of doors; will the little birdsbetray us?""The lower windows are open, and I saw Jacintha in one of therooms.""Jacintha? we are in awe of the very servants. Well, if I must notsay it loud I will say it often," and putting his mouth to her ear,he poured a burning whisper of love into it--"My love! my angel! mywife! my wife! my wife!"She turned her swimming eyes on him."My husband!" she whispered in return.Rose came out, and found them billing and cooing. "You MUST not beso happy, you two," said she authoritatively.
"How can we help it?" asked Camille."You must and shall help it, somehow," retorted this little tyrant.
"Mamma suspects. She has given me such a cross-examination, myblood runs cold. No, on second thoughts, kiss her again, and youmay both be as happy as you like; for I am going to tell mamma all,and no power on earth shall hinder me.""Rose," said Camille, "you are a sensible girl; and I always saidso."But Josephine was horrified. "What! tell my mother that within amonth of my husband's death?"--"Don't say your husband," put in Camille wincing; "the priest neverconfirmed that union; words spoken before a magistrate do not make amarriage in the sight of Heaven."Josephine cut him short. "Amongst honorable men and women all oathsare alike sacred: and Heaven's eye is in a magistrate's room as in achurch. A daughter of Beaurepaire gave her hand to him, and calledherself his wife. Therefore, she was his wife: and is his widow.She owes him everything; the house you are all living in among therest. She ought to be proud of her brief connection with that pure,heroic spirit, and, when she is so little noble as to disown him,then say that gratitude and justice have no longer a place amongmankind.""Come into the chapel," said Camille, with a voice that showed hewas hurt.
They entered the chapel, and there they saw something thatthoroughly surprised them: a marble monument to the memory ofRaynal. It leaned at present against the wall below the placeprepared to receive it. The inscription, short, but emphatic, andfull of feeling, told of the battles he had fought in, including thelast fatal skirmish, and his marriage with the heiress ofBeaurepaire; and, in a few soldier-like words, the uprightness,simplicity, and generosity of his character.They were so touched by this unexpected trait in Camille that theyboth threw their arms round his neck by one impulse. "Am I wrong tobe proud of him?" said Josephine, triumphantly.