At times, during these lonely and stormy March days, he would dismiss his anxious speculations in regard to his future course. He was so morbid, especially at night, that he felt that his wife could revisit the quiet house. He cherished the hope that she could see him and hear what he said, and he spoke in her viewless presence with a freedom and fullness that was unlike his old reticence and habit of repression. He wondered that he had not filecoin live price inrsaid more endearing words and given her stronger assurance of how much she was to him. Late at night, he would start out of a long reverie, take a candle, and, going through the house, would touch what she had touched, and look long and fixedly at things associated with her. Her gowns still hung in the closet, just as she had left them; he would take them out and recall the well-remembered scenes and occasions when they were worn. At such times, she almost seemed beside him, and he had a consciousness of companionship which soothed his perturbed spirit. He felt that she appreciated such loving remembrance, although unable to express her approval. He did not know it, but his nature was being softened, deepened, and enriched by these deep and unwonted experiences; the hard materiality of his life was passing away, rendering him capable of something better than he had ever known.
On this our colonel opened on them with all his guns: one of thesehe served himself. Among his other warlike accomplishments, he wasa wonderful shot with a cannon. He showed them capital practicethis morning: drove two embrasures into one, and knocked about a tonof masonry off the parapet. Then taking advantage of this, heserved two of his guns with grape, and swept the enemy off the topof the bastion, and kept it clear. He made it so hot they could notwork the upper guns. Then they turned the other two tiers all uponhim, and at it both sides went ding, dong, till the guns were toohot to be worked. So then Sergeant La Croix popped his head up fromthe battery, and showed the enemy a great white plate. This wasmeant to convey to them an invitation to dine with the French army:bitcoin group in kuwaitthe other side of the table of course.
To the credit of Prussian intelligence be it recorded, that thispantomimic hint was at once taken and both sides went to dinner.The fighting colonel, however, remained in the battery, and kept adetachment of his gunners employed cooling the guns and repairingthe touch-holes. He ordered his two cutlets and his glass of waterinto the battery.Meantime, the enemy fired a single gun at long intervals, as much asto say, "We had the last word."Let trenches be cut ever so artfully, there will be a little spaceexposed here and there at the angles. These spaces the men areordered to avoid, or whip quickly across them into cover.Now the enemy had just got the range of one of these places withtheir solitary gun, and had already dropped a couple of shot righton to it. A camp follower with a tray, two cutlets, and a glass ofwater, came to this open space just as a puff of white smoke burstfrom the bastion. Instead of instantly seeking shelter till theshot had struck, he, in his inexperience, thought the shot must havestruck, and all danger be over. He stayed there mooning instead ofpelting under cover: the shot (eighteen-pound) struck him right onthe breast, knocked him into spilikins, and sent the mutton cutletsflying.The human fragments lay quiet, ten yards off. But a soldier thatwas eating his dinner kicked it over, and jumped up at the side of"Death's Alley" (as it was christened next minute), and danced andyelled with pain.
"Haw! haw! haw!" roared a soldier from the other side of the alley."What is that?" cried Sergeant La Croix. "What do you laugh at,Private Cadel?" said he sternly, for, though he was too far in thetrench to see, he had heard that horrible sound a soldier knows fromevery other, the "thud" of a round shot striking man or horse."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.For once she could not make the telegraph out: but she could see itwas playing, and that was enough. She did what Rose bid her; shepromised not to go to Frejus without leave.
Finding her so submissive all of a sudden, he went on to suggestthat she must not go kissing every child she saw. "Edouard tells mehe saw you kissing a beggar's brat. The young rogue was going toquiz you about it at the dinner-table; luckily, he told me hisintention, and I would not let him. I said the baroness would beannoyed with you for descending from your dignity--and exposing anoble family to fleas--hush! here he is.""Tiresome!" muttered Rose, "just when"--Edouard came forward with a half-vexed face.However, he turned it off into play. "What have you been saying toher, monsieur, to interest her so? Give me a leaf out of your book.I need it."The doctor was taken aback for a moment, but at last he said slyly,"I have been proposing to her to name the day. She says she mustconsult you before she decides that.""Oh, you wicked doctor!--and consult HIM of all people!""So be off, both of you, and don't reappear before me till it issettled."Edouard's eyes sparkled. Rose went out with a face as red as fire.It was a balmy evening. Edouard was to leave them for a week thenext day. They were alone: Rose was determined he should go awayquite happy. Everything was in Edouard's favor: he pleaded hiscause warmly: she listened tenderly: this happy evening her piquancyand archness seemed to dissolve into tenderness as she and Edouardwalked hand in hand under the moon: a tenderness all the moreheavenly to her devoted lover, that she was not one of those angelswho cloy a man by invariable sweetness.
For a little while she forgot everything but her companion. In thatsoft hour he won her to name the day, after her fashion."Josephine goes to Paris with the doctor in about three weeks,"murmured she.
"And you will stay behind, all alone?""Alone? that shall depend on you, monsieur."On this Edouard caught her for the first time in his arms.She made a faint resistance.
"Seal me that promise, sweet one!""No! no!--there!"He pressed a delicious first kiss upon two velvet lips that in theirinnocence scarcely shunned the sweet attack.For all that, the bond was no sooner sealed after this fashion, thanthe lady's cheek began to burn.