I must cure him of his love for me; and then die; for what shall Ihave to live for? He weeps, he sighs, he cries for Josephine."Her enforced cruelty was more contrary to this woman's nature thanblack is to white, or htx hash ethereumeat to cold, and the heart rebelled furiouslyat times. As when a rock tries to stem a current, the water fightsits way on more sides than one, so insulted nature dealt withJosephine. Not only did her body pine, but her nerves wereexasperated. Sudden twitches came over her, that almost made herscream. Her permanent state was utter despondency, but across itcame fitful flashes of irritation; and then she was scarce mistressof herself.
"Faix I kin do all the bitcoin cash mining nasıl yapılırwourk, in doors and out, so I takes the notion," she had asserted.There certainly was no lack of bone and muscle in the big, red-faced, middle-aged woman who was so ready to preside at his hearth and glean from his diminished dairy a modicum of profit; but as he trudged home along the wintry road, he experienced strong feelings of disgust at the thought of such a creature sitting by the kitchen fire in the place once occupied by his wife.
During all these domestic vicissitudes he had occupied the parlor, a stiff, formal, frigid apartment, which had been rarely used in his married life. He had no inclination for the society of his help; in fact, there had been none with whom he could associate. The better class of those who went out to service could find places much more to their taste than the lonely farmhouse. The kitchen had been the one cozy, cheerful room of the house, and, driven from it, the farmer was an exile in his own home. In the parlor he could at least brood over the happy past, and that was about all the solace he had left.Bridget came and took possession of her domain with a sangfroid which appalled Holcroft from the first. To his directions and suggestions, she curtly informed him that she knew her business and "didn't want no mon around, orderin' and interferin'."In fact, she did appear, as she had said, capable of any amount of work, and usually was in a mood to perform it; but soon her male relatives began to drop in to smoke a pipe with her in the evening. A little later on, the supper table was left standing for those who were always ready to "take a bite."--The farmer had never heard of the camel who first got his head into the tent, but it gradually dawned upon him that he was half supporting the whole Irish tribe down at the shanty. Every evening, while he shivered in his best room, he was compelled to hear the coarse jests and laughter in the adjacent apartment. One night his bitter thoughts found expression: "I might as well open a free house for the keeping of man and beast."He had endured this state of affairs for some time simply because the woman did the essential work in her offhand, slapdash style, and left him unmolested to his brooding as long as he did not interfere with her ideas of domestic economy. But his impatience and the sense of being wronged were producing a feeling akin to desperation. Every week there was less and less to sell from the dairy; chickens and eggs disappeared, and the appetites of those who dropped in to "kape Bridgy from bein' a bit lonely" grew more voracious.Thus matters had drifted on until this March day when he had taken two calves to market. He had said to the kitchen potentate that he would take supper with a friend in town and therefore would not be back before nine in the evening. This friend was the official keeper of the poorhouse and had been a crony of Holcroft's in early life. He had taken to politics instead of farming, and now had attained to what he and his acquaintances spoke of as a "snug berth." Holcroft had maintained with this man a friendship based partly on business relations, and the well-to-do purveyor for paupers always gave his old playmate an honest welcome to his private supper table, which differed somewhat from that spread for the town's pensioners.
On this occasion the gathering storm had decided Holcroft to return without availing himself of his friend's hospitality, and he is at last entering the lane leading from the highway to his doorway. Even as he approaches his dwelling he hears the sound of revelry and readily guesses what is taking place.Quiet, patient men, when goaded beyond a certain point, are capable of terrible ebullitions of anger, and Holcroft was no exception. It seemed to him that night that the God he had worshiped all his life was in league with man against him. The blood rushed to his face, his chilled form became rigid with a sudden passionate protest against his misfortunes and wrongs. Springing from the wagon, he left his team standing at the barn door and rushed to the kitchen window. There before him sat the whole tribe from the shanty, feasting at his expense. The table was loaded with coarse profusion. Roast fowls alternated with fried ham and eggs, a great pitcher of milk was flanked by one of foaming cider, while the post of honor was occupied by the one contribution of his self-invited guests--a villainous-looking jug."'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.
See what is the matter with her, and tell me." And she carried offthe rest of the party.At the same time Jacintha asked permission to pass the rest of theevening with her relations in the village. But why that swift,quivering glance of intelligence between Jacintha and Rose deBeaurepaire when the baroness said, "Yes, certainly"?
Time will show.Josephine and the doctor were left alone. Now Josephine had noticedthe old people whisper and her mother glance her way, and the wholewoman was on her guard. She assumed a languid complacency, and byway of shield, if necessary, took some work, and bent her eyes andapparently her attention on it.The doctor was silent and ill at ease.She saw he had something weighty on his mind. "The air would havedone me no harm," said she."Neither will a few words with me.""Oh, no, dear friend. Only I think I should have liked a littlewalk this evening.""Josephine," said the doctor quietly, "when you were a child I savedyour life.""I have often heard my mother speak of it. I was choked by thecroup, and you had the courage to lance my windpipe.""Had I?" said the doctor, with a smile. He added gravely, "It seemsthen that to be cruel is sometimes kindness. It is the nature ofmen to love those whose life they save.""And they love you.""Well, our affection is not perfect. I don't know which is most toblame, but after all these years I have failed to inspire you withconfidence." The doctor's voice was sad, and Josephine's bosompanted."Pray do not say so," she cried. "I would trust you with my life.""But not with your secret.""My secret! What secret? I have no secrets.""Josephine, you have now for full twelve months suffered in body andmind, yet you have never come to me for counsel, for comfort, for anold man's experience and advice, nor even for medical aid.""But, dear friend, I assure you"--"We DO NOT deceive our friend. We CANNOT deceive our doctor."Josephine trembled, but defended herself after the manner of hersex. "Dear doctor," said she, "I love you all the better for this.
Your regard for me has for once blinded your science. I am not sorobust as you have known me, but there is nothing serious the matterwith me. Let us talk of something else. Besides, it is notinteresting to talk about one's self.""Very well; since there is nothing serious or interesting in yourcase, we will talk about something that is both serious andinteresting.""With all my heart;" and she smiled with a sense of relief.But the doctor leaned over the table to her, and said in a cautiousand most emphatic whisper, "We will talk about YOUR CHILD."The work dropped from Josephine's hands: she turned her face wildlyon Aubertin, and faltered out, "M--my child?""My words are plain," replied he gravely. "YOUR CHILD."When the doctor repeated these words, when Josephine looking in hisface saw he spoke from knowledge, however acquired, and not fromguess, she glided down slowly off the sofa and clasped his knees ashe stood before her, and hid her face in an agony of shame andterror on his knees.
"Forgive me," she sobbed. "Pray do not expose me! Do not destroyme.""Unhappy young lady," said he, "did you think you had deceived me,or that you are fit to deceive any but the blind? Your face, youranguish after Colonel Dujardin's departure, your languor, and thenyour sudden robustness, your appetite, your caprices, your strangesojourn at Frejus, your changed looks and loss of health on yourreturn! Josephine, your old friend has passed many an hour thinkingof you, divining your folly, following your trouble step by step.Yet you never invited him to aid you."Josephine faltered out a lame excuse. If she had revered him lessshe could have borne to confess to him. She added it would be arelief to her to confide in him.
"Then tell me all," said he.She consented almost eagerly, and told him--nearly all. The old manwas deeply affected. He murmured in a broken voice, "Your story isthe story of your sex, self-sacrifice, first to your mother, then toCamille, now to your husband.""And he is well worthy of any sacrifice I can make," said Josephine.
"But oh, how hard it is to live!""I hope to make it less hard to you ere long," said the doctorquietly. He then congratulated himself on having forced Josephineto confide in him. "For," said he, "you never needed an experiencedfriend more than at this moment. Your mother will not always be soblind as of late. Edouard is suspicious. Jacintha is a shrewdyoung woman, and very inquisitive."Josephine was not at the end of her concealments: she was ashamed tolet him know she had made a confidant of Jacintha and not of him.She held her peace."Then," continued Aubertin, "there is the terrible chance ofRaynal's return. But ere I take on me to advise you, what are yourown plans?""I don't know," said Josephine helplessly."You--don't--know!" cried the doctor, looking at her in utteramazement.
"It is the answer of a mad woman, is it not? Doctor, I am littlebetter. My foot has slipped on the edge of a precipice. I close myeyes, and let myself glide down it. What will become of me?""All shall be well," said Aubertin, "provided you do not still lovethat man."Josephine did not immediately reply: her thoughts turned inwards.The good doctor was proceeding to congratulate her on being cured ofa fatal passion, when she stopped him with wonder in her face. "Notlove him! How can I help loving him? I was his betrothed. Iwronged him in my thoughts. War, prison, anguish, could not killhim; he loved me so. He struggled bleeding to my feet; and could Ilet him die, after all? Could I be crueller than prison, andtorture, and despair?"The doctor sighed deeply; but, arming himself with the necessaryresolution, he sternly replied, "A woman of your name cannotvacillate between love and honor; such vacillations have but oneend. I will not let you drift a moral wreck between passion andvirtue; and that is what it will come to if you hesitate now.""Hesitate! Who can say I have hesitated where my honor wasconcerned? You can read our bodies then, but not our hearts. What!
you see me so pale, forlorn, and dead, and that does not tell you Ihave bid Camille farewell forever? That we might be safer still Ihave not even told him he is a father: was ever woman so cruel as Iam? I have written him but one letter, and in that I must deceivehim. I told him I thought I might one day be happy, if I could hearthat he did not give way to despair. I told him we must never meetagain in this world. So now come what will: show me my duty and Iwill do it. This endless deceit burns my heart. Shall I tell myhusband? It will be but one pang more, one blush more for me. Butmy mother!" and, thus appealed to, Dr. Aubertin felt, for the firsttime, all the difficulty of the situation he had undertaken to cure.He hesitated, he was embarrassed.
"Ah," said Josephine, "you see." Then, after a short silence, shesaid despairingly, "This is my only hope: that poor Raynal will belong absent, and that ere he returns mamma will lie safe from sorrowand shame in the little chapel. Doctor, when a woman of my ageforms such wishes as these, I think you might pity her, and forgiveher ill-treatment of you, for she cannot be very happy. Ah me! ahme! ah me!""Courage, poor soul! All is now in my hands, and I will save you,"said the doctor, his voice trembling in spite of him. "Guilt liesin the intention. A more innocent woman than you does not breathe.Two courses lay open to you: to leave this house with CamilleDujardin, or to dismiss him, and live for your hard duty till itshall please Heaven to make that duty easy (no middle course wastenable for a day); of these two paths you chose the right one, and,having chosen, I really think you are not called on to reveal yourmisfortune, and make those unhappy to whose happiness you havesacrificed your own for years to come.""Forever," said Josephine quietly.
"The young use that word lightly. The old have almost ceased to useit. They have seen how few earthly things can conquer time."He resumed, "You think only of others, Josephine, but I shall thinkof you as well. I shall not allow your life to be wasted in aneedless struggle against nature." Then turning to Rose, who hadglided into the room, and stood amazed, "Her griefs were as manybefore her child was born, yet her health stood firm. Why? becausenature was on her side. Now she is sinking into the grave. Why?because she is defying nature. Nature intended her to be pressingher child to her bosom day and night; instead of that, a peasantwoman at Frejus nurses the child, and the mother pines atBeaurepaire."At this, Josephine leaned her face on her hands on the doctor'sshoulder. In this attitude she murmured to him, "I have never seenhim since I left Frejus." Dr. Aubertin sighed for her. Emboldenedby this, she announced her intention of going to Frejus the verynext day to see her little Henri. But to this Dr. Aubertindemurred. "What, another journey to Frejus?" said he, "when thefirst has already roused Edouard's suspicions; I can never consentto that."Then Josephine surprised them both. She dropped her coaxing voiceand pecked the doctor like an irritated pigeon. "Take care," saidshe, "don't be too cruel to me. You see I am obedient, resigned. Ihave given up all I lived for: but if I am never to have my littleboy's arms round me to console me, then--why torment me any longer?Why not say to me, 'Josephine, you have offended Heaven; pray forpardon, and die'?"Then the doctor was angry in his turn. "Oh, go then," said he, "goto Frejus; you will have Edouard Riviere for a companion this time.Your first visit roused his suspicions. So before you go tell yourmother all; for since she is sure to find it out, she had betterhear it from you than from another.""Doctor, have pity on me," said Josephine.
"You have no heart," said Rose. "She shall see him though, in spiteof you.""Oh, yes! he has a heart," said Josephine: "he is my best friend.He will let me see my boy."All this, and the tearful eyes and coaxing yet trembling voice, washard to resist. But Aubertin saw clearly, and stood firm. He puthis handkerchief to his eyes a moment: then took the pining youngmother's hand. "And, do you think," said he, "I do not pity you andlove your boy? Ah! he will never want a father whilst I live; andfrom this moment he is under my care. I will go to see him; I willbring you news, and all in good time; I will place him where youshall visit him without imprudence; but, for the present, trust awiser head than yours or Rose's; and give me your sacred promise notto go to Frejus."Weighed down by his good-sense and kindness, Josephine resisted nolonger in words. She just lifted her hands in despair and began tocry. It was so piteous, Aubertin was ready to yield in turn, andconsent to any imprudence, when he met with an unexpected ally.
"Promise," said Rose, doggedly.Josephine looked at her calmly through her tears.
"Promise, dear," repeated Rose, and this time with an intonation sofine that it attracted Josephine's notice, but not the doctor's. Itwas followed by a glance equally subtle."I promise," said Josephine, with her eye fixed inquiringly on hersister.