All explanations and reassurances would have been trivial in effect, compared with the taes cryptosystemruth that he had been hurt in her defense. She dashed her tears right and left, ran for a basin of water, and making him take her chair, began washing away the blood stains.
Compelled to give up all these preliminaries, but inwardly resolving to gain each point by a nagging persistence of which she was a mistress, she finally declared that she "must have writings about one thing which couldn't be left to any man's changeful mind. He must agree to give me the monthly salary he names for at least a year."tron price today in usdWeeks thought a moment, and then, with a shrewd twinkle in his eyes, admitted, "It would be a good thing to have Holcroft's name to such an agreement. Yes, you might try that on, but you're taking a risk. If you were not so penny-wise and pound-foolish, you'd go at once and manage to get him to take you for 'better or worse.'"
"You--misjudge me, Cousin Lemuel," replied the widow, bridling and rocking violently. If there's any such taking to be done, he must get me to take him.""Well, well, write your letter about a year's engagement. That'll settle you for a twelvemonth, at least."Mrs. Mumpson again began the slow, laborious construction of a letter in which she dwelt upon the uncertainties of life, her "duty to her offspring," and the evils of "vicissitude." "A stable home is woman's chief desire," she concluded, "and you will surely agree to pay me the salary you have said for a year."When Holcroft read this second epistle he so far yielded to his first impulse that he half tore the sheet, then paused irresolutely. After a few moments he went to the door and looked out upon his acres. "It'll soon be plowing and planting time," he thought. "I guess I can stand her---at least I can try it for three months. I'd like to turn a few more furrows on the old place," and his face softened and grew wistful as he looked at the bare, frost-bound fields. Suddenly it darkened and grew stern as he muttered, "But I'll put my hand to no more paper with that Weeks tribe."He strode to the stable, saying to Timothy Weeks, as he passed, "I'll answer this letter in person."
Away cantered Timothy, and soon caused a flutter of expectancy in the Weeks household, by announcing that "Old Holcroft looked black as a thundercloud and was comin' himself.""I tell you what 'tis, Cynthy, it's the turn of a hair with you now," growled Weeks. "Unless you agree to whatever Holcroft says, you haven't the ghost of a chance."After a few words of homely welcome--not eloquent, but very sincere--she went off again with her apron to her eyes. She reappeared withthe good cheer, and served the poor fellows with radiant zeal.
"What regiment?" asked Raynal.Dard was about to answer, but his superior stopped him severely;then, rising with his hand to his forehead, he replied, with pride,"Twenty-fourth brigade, second company. We were cut up atPhilipsburg, and incorporated with the 12th."Raynal instantly regretted his question; for Josephine's eye fixedon Sergeant La Croix with an expression words cannot paint. Yet sheshowed more composure, real or forced, than he expected."Heaven sends him," said she. "My friend, tell me, were you--ah!"Colonel Raynal interfered hastily. "Think what you do. He can tellyou nothing but what we know, not so much, in fact, as we know; for,now I look at him, I think this is the very sergeant we found lyinginsensible under the bastion. He must have been struck before thebastion was taken even.""I was, colonel, I was. I remember nothing but losing my senses,and feeling the colors go out of my hand.""There, you see, he knows nothing," said Raynal."It was hot work, colonel, under that bastion, but it was hotter tothe poor fellows that got in. I heard all about it from PrivateDard here.""So, then, it was you who carried the colors?""Yes, I was struck down with the colors of the brigade in my hand,"cried La Croix.
"See how people blunder about, everything; they told me the colonelcarried the colors.""Why, of course he did. You don't think our colonel, the fightingcolonel, would let me hold the colors of the brigade so long as hewas alive. No; he was struck by a Prussian bullet, and he had justtime to hand the colors to me, and point with his sword to thebastion, and down he went. It was hot work, I can tell you. I didnot hold them long, not thirty seconds, and if we could know theirhistory, they passed through more hands than that before they got tothe Prussian flag-staff."Raynal suddenly rose, and walked rapidly to and fro, with his handsbehind him."Poor colonel!" continued La Croix. "Well, I love to think he diedlike a soldier, and not like some of my poor comrades, hashed toatoms, and not a volley fired over him. I hope they put a stoneover him, for he was the best soldier and the best general in thearmy.""O sir!" cried Josephine, "there is no stone even to mark the spotwhere he fell," and she sobbed despairingly.
"Why, how is this, Private Dard?" inquired La Croix, sternly.Dard apologized for his comrade, and touching his own headsignificantly told them that since his wound the sergeant's memorywas defective."Now, sergeant, didn't I tell you the colonel must have got thebetter of his wound, and got into the battery?""It's false, Private Dard; don't I know our colonel better thanthat? Would ever he have let those colors out of his hand, if therehad been an ounce of life left in him?""He died at the foot of the battery, I tell you.""Then why didn't we find him?"Here Jacintha put in a word with the quiet subdued meaning of herclass. "I can't find that anybody ever saw the colonel dead.""They did not find him, because they did not look for him," saidSergeant La Croix."God forgive you, sergeant!" said Dard, with some feeling. "Notlook for OUR COLONEL! We turned over every body that lay there,--full thirty there were,--and you were one of them.""Only thirty! Why, we settled more Prussians than that, I'llswear.""Oh! they carried off their dead.""Ay! but I don't see why they should carry our colonel off. Hisepaulets was all the thieves could do any good with. Stop! yet Ido, Private Dard; I have a horrible suspicion. No, I have not; itis a certainty. What! don't you see, ye ninny? Thunder andthousands of devils, here's a disgrace. Dogs of Prussians! theyhave got our colonel, they have taken him prisoner.""O God bless them!" cried Josephine; "O God bless the mouth thattells me so! O sir, I am his wife, his poor heart-broken wife. Youwould not be so cruel as to mock my despair. Say again that he maybe alive, pray, say it again!""His wife! Private Dard, why didn't you tell me? You tell menothing. Yes, my pretty lady, I'll say it again, and I'll prove it.
Here is an enemy in full retreat, would they encumber themselveswith the colonel? If he was dead, they'd have whipped off hisepaulets, and left him there. Alive? why not? Look at me: I amalive, and I was worse wounded than he was. They took me for dead,you see. Courage, madame! you will see him again, take an oldsoldier's word for it. Dard, attention! this is the colonel'swife."She gazed on the speaker like one in a trance.Every eye and every soul had been so bent on Sergeant La Croix thatit was only now Raynal was observed to be missing. The next minutehe came riding out of the stable-yard, and went full gallop down theroad."Ah!" cried Rose, with a burst of hope; "he thinks so too; he hashopes. He is gone somewhere for information. Perhaps to Paris."Josephine's excitement and alternations of hope and fear were nowalarming. Rose held her hand, and implored her to try and be calmtill they could see Raynal.Just before dark he came riding fiercely home. Josephine flew downthe stairs. Raynal at sight of her forgot all his caution. Hewaved his cocked hat in the air. She fell on her knees and thankedGod. He gasped out,--"Prisoner--exchanged for two Prussian lieutenants--sent home--theysay he is in France!"The tears of joy gushed in streams from her.
Some days passed in hope and joy inexpressible; but the good doctorwas uneasy for Josephine. She was always listening withsupernatural keenness and starting from her chair, and every fibreof her lovely person seemed to be on the quiver.Nor was Rose without a serious misgiving. Would husband and wifeever meet? He evidently looked on her as Madame Raynal, and made ita point of honor to keep away from Beaurepaire.
They had recourse to that ever-soothing influence--her child.Madame Jouvenel was settled in the village, and Josephine visitedher every day, and came back often with red eyes, but alwayssoothed.
One day Rose and she went to Madame Jouvenel, and, entering thehouse without ceremony, found the nurse out, and no one watching thechild."How careless!" said Rose.Josephine stopped eagerly to kiss him. But instead of kissing him,she uttered a loud cry. There was a locket hanging round his neck.It was a locket containing some of Josephine's hair and Camille's.She had given it him in the happy days that followed their marriage.She stood gasping in the middle of the room. Madame Jouvenel camerunning in soon after. Josephine, by a wonderful effort overherself, asked her calmly and cunningly,--"Where is the gentleman who put this locket round my child's neck?
I want to speak with him."Madame Jouvenel stammered and looked confused."A soldier--an officer?--come, tell me!""Woman," cried Rose, "why do you hesitate?""What am I to do?" said Madame Jouvenel. "He made me swear never tomention his coming here. He goes away, or hides whenever you come.
And since Madame does not love the poor wounded gentleman, what canhe do better?""Not love him!" cried Rose: "why, she is his wife, his lawful weddedwife; he is a fool or a monster to run away for her. She loves himas no woman ever loved before. She pines for him. She dies forhim."The door of a little back room opened at these words of Rose, andthere stood Camille, with his arm in a sling, pale and astounded,but great joy and wonder working in his face.Josephine gave a cry of love that made the other two women weep, andin a moment they were sobbing for joy upon each other's neck.
Away went sorrow, doubt, despair, and all they had suffered. Thatone moment paid for all. And in that moment of joy and surprise, sogreat as to be almost terrible, perhaps it was well for Josephinethat Camille, weakened by his wound, was quite overcome, and nearlyfainted. She was herself just going into hysterics; but, seeing himquite overcome, she conquered them directly, and nursed, andsoothed, and pitied, and encouraged him instead.Then they sat hand in hand. Their happiness stopped their verybreath. They could not speak. So Rose told him all. He neverowned why he had slipped away when he saw them coming. He forgotit. He forgot all his hard thoughts of her. They took him home inthe carriage. His wife would not let him out of her sight. Foryears and years after this she could hardly bear to let him be anhour out of her sight.
The world is wide; there may be a man in it who can paint the suddenbliss that fell on these two much suffering hearts; but I am notthat man; this is beyond me; it was not only heaven, but heavenafter hell.Leave we the indescribable and the unspeakable for a moment, and goto a lighter theme.The day Rose's character was so unexpectedly cleared, Edouard had noopportunity of speaking to her, or a reconciliation would have takenplace. As it was, he went home intensely happy. But he did notresume his visits to the chateau. When he came to think calmly overit, his vanity was cruelly mortified. She was innocent of thegreater offence; but how insolently she had sacrificed him, hislove, and his respect, to another's interest.More generous thoughts prevailed by degrees. And one day that herpale face, her tears, and her remorse got the better of his offendedpride, he determined to give her a good lecture that should drownher in penitent tears; and then end by forgiving her. For one thinghe could not be happy till he had forgiven her.
She walked into the room with a calm, dignified, stately air, andbefore he could utter one word of his grave remonstrance, attackedhim thus: "You wish to speak to me, sir. If it is to apologize tome, I will save your vanity the mortification. I forgive you.""YOU forgive ME!" cried Edouard furiously."No violence, if you please," said the lady with cold hauteur. "Letus be friends, as Josephine and Raynal are. We cannot be anythingmore to one another now. You have wounded me too deeply by yourjealous, suspicious nature."Edouard gasped for breath, and was so far out-generalled that heaccepted the place of defendant. "Wasn't I to believe your ownlips? Did not Colonel Raynal believe you?""Oh, that's excusable. He did not know me. But you were my lover;you ought to have seen I was forced to deceive poor Raynal. Howdare you believe your eyes; much more your ears, against my truth,against my honor; and then to believe such nonsense?" Then, with agrand assumption of superior knowledge, says she, "You littlesimpleton, how could the child be mine when I wasn't married atall?"At this reproach, Edouard first stared, then grinned. "I forgotthat," said he.
"Yes, and you forgot the moon isn't made of green cheese. However,if I saw you very humble, and very penitent, I might, perhaps,really forgive you--in time.""No, forgive me at once. I don't understand your angelical,diabolical, incomprehensible sex: who on earth can? forgive me.""Oh! oh! oh! oh!"Lo! the tears that could not come at a remonstrance were flowing ina stream at his generosity."What is the matter now?" said he tenderly. She cried away, but atthe same time explained,--"What a f--f--foolish you must be not to see that it is I who amwithout excuse. You were my betrothed. It was to you I owed myduty; not my sister. I am a wicked, unhappy girl. How you musthate me!""I adore you. There, no more forgiving on either side. Let ouronly quarrel be who shall love the other best.""Oh, I know how that will be," said the observant toad. "You willlove me best till you have got me; and then I shall love you best;oh, ever so much."However, the prospect of loving best did not seem disagreeable toher; for with this announcement she deposited her head on hisshoulder, and in that attitude took a little walk with him up anddown the Pleasaunce: sixty times; about eight miles.
These two were a happy pair. This wayward, but generous heart neverforgot her offence, and his forgiveness. She gave herself to himheart and soul, at the altar, and well she redeemed her vow. Herose high in political life: and paid the penalty of that sort ofambition; his heart was often sore. But by his own hearth satcomfort and ever ready sympathy. Ay, and patient industry to readblue-books, and a ready hand and brain to write diplomatic notes forhim, off which the mind glided as from a ball of ice.In thirty years she never once mentioned the servants to him.
"Oh, let eternal honor crown her name!"It was only a little bit of heel that Dard had left in Prussia.More fortunate than his predecessor (Achilles), he got off with aslight but enduring limp. And so the army lost him.He married Jacintha, and Josephine set them up in Bigot's,(deceased) auberge. Jacintha shone as a landlady, and custom flowedin. For all that, a hankering after Beaurepaire was observable inher. Her favorite stroll was into the Beaurepaire kitchen, and onall fetes and grand occasions she was prominent in gay attire as aretainer of the house. The last specimen of her homely sagacity Ishall have the honor to lay before you is a critique upon herhusband, which she vented six years after marriage."My Dard," said she, "is very good as far as he goes. What he hasfelt himself, that he can feel FOR: nobody better. You come to himwith an empty belly, or a broken head, or all bleeding with a cut,or black and blue, and you shall find a friend. But if it is a soreheart, or trouble, and sorrow, and no hole in your carcass to showfor it, you had better come to ME; for you might as well tell yourgrief to a stone wall as to my man."The baroness took her son Raynal to Paris, and there, with keen eye,selected him a wife. She proved an excellent one. It would havebeen hard if she had not, for the baroness with the severe sagacityof her age and sex, had set aside as naught a score of seemingangels, before she could suit herself with a daughter-in-law. Atfirst the Raynals very properly saw little of the Dujardins; butwhen both had been married some years, the recollection of thatfleeting and nominal connection waxed faint, while the memory ofgreat benefits conferred on both sides remained lively as ever inhearts so great, and there was a warm, a sacred friendship betweenthe two houses--a friendship of the ancient Greeks, not of themodern club-house.
Camille and Josephine were blessed almost beyond the lot ofhumanity: none can really appreciate sunshine but those who come outof the cold dark. And so with happiness. For years they couldhardly be said to live like mortals: they basked in bliss. But itwas a near thing; for they but just scraped clear of life-longmisery, and death's cold touch grazed them both as they went.Yet they had heroic virtues to balance White Lies in the greatJudge's eye.
A wholesome lesson, therefore, and a warning may be gathered fromthis story: and I know many novelists who would have preached thatlesson at some length in every other chapter, and interrupted thesacred narrative to do it. But when I read stories so mutilated, Ithink of a circumstance related by Mr. Joseph Miller."An Englishman sojourning in some part of Scotland was afflictedwith many hairs in the butter, and remonstrated. He was told, inreply, that the hairs and the butter came from one source--the cow;and that the just and natural proportions hitherto observed, couldnot be deranged, and bald butter invented--for ONE. 'So be it,'
said the Englishman; 'but let me have the butter in one plate, andthe hairs in another.'"Acting on this hint, I have reserved some admirable remarks,reflections, discourses, and tirades, until the story should beended, and the other plate be ready for the subsidiary sermon.And now that the proper time is come, that love of intruding one'sown wisdom in one's own person on the reader, which has marred somany works of art, is in my case restrained--first, by pure fatigue;secondly, because the moral of this particular story stands out soclear in the narrative, that he who runs may read it without anysermon at all.