"Pray leave her to me a moment," said she. "I will bring her down toyou. Mamma is waiting for you in the saloapenft added to binancen."Raynal went down. Rose unlocked the bedroom-door, went in, and, toher horror, found Josephine lying on the floor. She dashed water inher face, and applied every remedy; and at last she came back tolife, and its terrors.
The baroness, as I have said, drew Josephine aside, and tried tobreak to her the sad news: but her own grief overcame her, andbursting into tears she bewailed the loss of her son. Josephine wasgreatly shocked. Death!--Raynal dead--her true, kind friend dead--her benefactor dead. She clung to her mother's neck, and sobbedwith her. Presently she withdrew her face and suddenly hid it inboth her hands.eos coin marketShe rose and kissed her mother once more: and went to her own room:
and then, though there was none to see her, she hid her wet, butburning, cheeks in her hands.Josephine confined herself for some days to her own room, leaving itonly to go to the chapel in the park, where she spent hours inprayers for the dead and in self-humiliation. Her "tenderconscience" accused herself bitterly for not having loved thisgallant spirit more than she had.Camille realized nothing at first; he looked all confused in thedoctor's face, and was silent. Then after awhile he said, "Dead?Raynal dead?""Killed in action."A red flush came to Camille's face, and his eyes went down to theground at his very feet, nor did he once raise them while the doctortold him how the sad news had come. "Picard the notary brought usthe Moniteur, and there was Commandant Raynal among the killed in acavalry skirmish." With this, he took the journal from his pocket,and Camille read it, with awe-struck, and other feelings he wouldhave been sorry to see analyzed. He said not a word; and loweredhis eyes to the ground."And now," said Aubertin, "you will excuse me. I must go to my poorfriend the baroness. She had a mother's love for him who is nomore: well she might."Aubertin went away, and left Dujardin standing there like a statue,his eyes still glued to the ground at his feet.
The doctor was no sooner out of sight, than Camille raised his eyesfurtively, like a guilty person, and looked irresolutely this wayand that: at last he turned and went back to the place where he hadmeditated suicide and murder; looked down at it a long while, thenlooked up to heaven--then fell suddenly on his knees: and soremained till night-fall. Then he came back to the chateau.He whispered to himself, "And I am afraid it is too late to go awayto-night." He went softly into the saloon. Nobody was there butRose and Aubertin. At sight of him Rose got up and left the room."No. I'll attend to everything there. It's too damp for you yet. Keep on resting. Why, bless me! I didn't think you'd be well enough to do anything for a week."
"Indeed," she admitted, "I'm surprised at myself. It seems as if a crushing weight had been lifted off my mind and that I was coming right up. I'm so glad, for I feared I might be feeble and useless a long time.""Well, Alida, if you had been, or if you ever are, don't think I'll be impatient. The people I can't stand are those who try to take advantage of me, and I tell you I've had to contend with that disposition so long that I feel as if I could do almost anything for one who is simply honest and tries to keep her part of an agreement. But this won't do. I've enjoyed my own dinner so much that I've half forgotten that the horses haven't had theirs yet. Now will you scold if I light my pipe before I go out?""Oh, no! I don't mind that.""No good-natured fibs! Isn't smoke disagreeable?"
She shook her head. "I don't mind it at all," she said, but her sudden paleness puzzled him. He could not know that he had involuntarily recalled the many times that she had filled the evening pipe for a man who now haunted her memory like a specter."I guess you don't like it very much," he said, as he passed out. "Well, no matter! It's getting so mild that I can smoke out of doors."
With the exception of the episode of dinner the day was chiefly passed by Alida in a health-restoring languor, the natural reaction from the distress and strong excitements of the past. The rest that had been enjoined upon her was a blessed privilege, and still more happy was the truth that she could rest. Reclining on the lounge in the parlor, with a wood fire on one side and the April sun on the other, both creating warmth and good cheer, she felt like those who have just escaped from a wreck and engulfing waves. Her mind was too weary to question either the past or the future, and sometimes a consciousness of safety is happiness in itself. In the afternoon, the crackling of the fire and the calling and singing of the birds without formed a soothing lullaby and she fell asleep.At last, in a dream, she heard exquisite music which appeared to grow so loud, strong, and triumphant that she started up and looked around bewildered. A moment later, she saw that a robin was singing in a lilac bush by the window and that near the bird was a nest partially constructed. She recalled her hopeless grief when she had last seen the building of one of their little homes; and she fell upon her knees with a gratitude too deep for words, and far more grateful to Heaven than words.Stepping out on the porch, she saw by the shadows that the sun was low in the west and that Holcroft was coming down the lane with his horses. He nodded pleasantly as he passed on to the barn. Her eyes followed him lingeringly till he disappeared, and then they ranged over the wide valley and the wooded hills in the distance. Not a breath of air was stirring; the lowing of cattle and other rural sounds softened by distance came from other farmhouses; the birds were at vespers, and their songs, to her fancy, were imbued with a softer, sweeter melody than in the morning. From the adjacent fields came clear, mellow notes that made her nerves tingle, so ethereal yet penetrating were they. She was sure she had never heard such bird music before. When Holcroft came in to supper she asked, "What birds are those that sing in the field?""Meadow larks. Do you like them?"
"I never heard a hymn sung that did me more good.""Well, I own up, I'd rather hear 'em than much of the singing we used to have down at the meeting house.""It seems to me," she remarked, as she sat down at the table, "that I've never heard birds sing as they have today.""Now I think of it, they have been tuning up wonderfully. Perhaps they've an idea of my good luck," he added smilingly.
"I had thought of that about myself," she ventured. "I took a nap this afternoon, and a robin sang so near the window that he woke me up. It was a pleasant way to be waked.""Took a nap, did you? That's famous! Well, well! This day's gone just to suit me, and I haven't had many such in a good while, I can tell you. I've got in a big strip of oats, and now, when I come in tired, here's a good supper. I certainly shall have to be on the watch to do Tom Watterly good turns for talking me into this business. That taking a nap was a first-rate idea. You ought to keep it up for a month."
"No, indeed! There's no reason why you should work hard and I be idle. I've rested today, as you wished, and I feel better than I ever expected to again; but tomorrow I must begin in earnest. What use is there of your keeping your cows if good butter is not made? Then I must be busy with my needle.""Yes, that's true enough. See how thoughtless I am! I forgot you hadn't any clothes to speak of. I ought to take you to town to a dressmaker."
"I think you had better get your oats in," she replied, smiling shyly. "Besides, I have a dressmaker that just suits me--one that's made my dresses a good many years.""If she don't suit you, you're hard to be suited," said he, laughing. "Well, some day, after you are fixed up, I shall have to let you know how dilapidated I am.""Won't you do me a little favor?""Oh, yes! A dozen of 'em, big or little.""Please bring down this evening something that needs mending. I am so much better--""No, no! I wasn't hinting for you to do anything tonight."
"But you've promised me," she urged. "Remember I've been resting nearly all day. I'm used to sewing, and earned my living at it. Somehow, it don't seem natural for me to sit with idle hands.""If I hadn't promised--"
"But you have.""I suppose I'm fairly caught," and he brought down a little of the most pressing of the mending.
"Now I'll reward you," she said, handing him his pipe, well filled. "You go in the parlor and have a quiet smoke. I won't be long in clearing up the kitchen.""What! Smoke in the parlor?"
"Yes, why not? I assure you I don't mind it.""Ha! Ha! Why didn't I think of it before--I might have kept the parlor and smoked Mrs. Mumpson out.""It won't be smoke that will keep me out.""I should hope not, or anything else. I must tell you how I DID have to smoke Mrs. Mumpson out at last," and he did so with so much drollery that she again yielded to irrepressible laughter.
"Poor thing! I'm sorry for her," she said."I'm sorry for Jane--poor little stray cat of a child! I hope we can do something for her some day," and having lighted his pipe, he took up the county paper, left weekly in a hollow tree by the stage driver, and went into the parlor.
After freshening up the fire he sat down to read, but by the time she joined him the tired man was nodding. He tried to brighten up, but his eyes were heavy."You've worked hard today," she said sympathetically.
"Well, I have," he answered. "I've not done such a good day's work in a year.""Then why don't you go to sleep at once?"
"It don't seem polite--""Please don't talk that way," she interrupted. "I don't mind being alone at all. I shall feel a great deal more at home if you forget all about ceremony.""Well, Alida, I guess we had both better begin on that basis. If I give up when I'm tired, you must. You mustn't think I'm always such a sleepyhead. The fact is I've been more tired out with worry of late than with work. I can laugh about it now, but I've been so desperate over it that I've felt more like swearing. You'll find out I've become a good deal of a heathen.""Very well; I'll wait till I find out."
"I think we are getting acquainted famously, don't you?""Yes," she nodded, with a smile that meant more than a long speech. "Good night."
Chapter 23 Between the Past and FutureHuman nature, in common with Mother Nature, has its immutable laws. The people who existed before the flood were, in their primal motives, like those of today. The conventionality of highly civilized society does not change the heart, but it puts so much restraint upon it that not a few appear heartless. They march through life and fight its battles like uniformed men, trained in a certain school of tactics. The monotony of character and action is superficial, in most cases, rather than real, and he who fathoms the eyes of others, who catches the subtle quality of tones and interprets the flexible mouth that utters them, will discover that the whole gamut of human nature exists in those that appear only like certain musical instruments, made by machinery to play a few well-known tunes. Conventional restraint often, no doubt, produces dwarfed and defective human nature. I suppose that if souls could be put under a microscope, the undeveloped rudiments of almost everything would be discovered. It is more satisfactory to study the things themselves than their suggestions; this we are usually better able to do among people of simple and untrammeled modes of life, who are not practiced in disguises. Their peculiar traits and their general and dominant laws and impulses are exhibited with less reserve than by those who have learned to be always on their guard. Of course there are commonplace yeomen as truly as commonplace aristocrats, and simple life abounds in simpletons.
When a man in Holcroft's position has decided traits, they are apt to have a somewhat full expression; his rugged nature beside a tamer one outlines itself more vividly, just as a mountain peak is silhouetted against the horizon better than a rounded hill. It probably has been observed that his character possessed much simplicity and directness. He had neither the force nor the ambition to raise him above his circumstances; he was merely decided within the lines of his environment. Perhaps the current of his life was all the stronger for being narrow. His motives were neither complex nor vacillating. He had married to keep his home and to continue in the conditions of life dear from association and the strongest preference, and his heart overflowed with good will and kindness toward Alida because she promised to solve the hard problem of the future satisfactorily. Apart from the sympathy which her misfortune had evoked, he probably could have felt much the same toward any other good, sensible woman, had she rendered him a similar service. It is true, now that Alida was in his home, that she was manifesting agreeable traits which gave him pleasant little surprises. He had not expected that he would have had half so much to say to her, yet felt it his duty to be sociable in order to cheer up and mark the line between even a business marriage and the employment of a domestic. Both his interest and his duty required that he should establish the bonds of strong friendly regard on the basis of perfect equality, and he would have made efforts, similar to those he put forth, in behalf of any woman, if she had consented to marry him with Alida's understanding. Now, however, that his suddenly adopted project of securing a housekeeper and helper had been consummated, he would find that he was not dealing with a business partner in the abstract, but a definite woman, who had already begun to exert over him her natural influence. He had expected more or less constraint and that some time must elapse before his wife would cease to be in a sense company whom he, with conscious and deliberate effort, must entertain. On the contrary she entertained and interested him, although she said so little, and by some subtle power she unloosed his tongue and made it easy for him to talk to her. In the most quiet and unobtrusive way, she was not only making herself at home, but him also; she was very subservient to his wishes, but not servilely so; she did not assert, but only revealed her superiority, and after even so brief an acquaintance he was ready to indorse Tom Watterly's view, "She's out of the common run."While all this was true, the farmer's heart was as untouched as that of a child who simply and instinctively likes a person. He was still quietly and unhesitatingly loyal to his former wife. Apart from his involuntary favor, his shrewd, practical reason was definite enough in its grounds of approval. Reason assured him that she promised to do and to be just what he had married her for, but this might have been true of a capable, yet disagreeable woman whom he could not like, to save himself.