The latter was much too preoccupied to give her child attention. Ensconced in a rocking chair in the best room, and always in full tide of talk if there was anyone present, she rarely seemed to think where Jane was or what she was doing. The rounds of visitation gave the child no chance to go to school, so her developing mind had little other pabulum than what her mother supplied so freely. She was acquiring the same consumingethereum classic highest price prediction curiosity, with the redeeming feature that she did not talk. Listening in unsuspected places, she heard much that was said about her mother and herself, and the pathetic part of this experience was that she had never known enough of kindness to be wounded. She was only made to feel more fully how precarious was her foothold in her transient abiding place, and therefore was rendered more furtive, sly, and distant in order to secure toleration by keeping out of everyone's way. In her prowlings, however, she managed to learn and understand all that was going on even better than her mother, who, becoming aware of this fact, was acquiring the habit of putting her through a whispered cross-questioning when they retired for the night. It would be hard to imagine a child beginning life under more unfavorable auspices and still harder to predict the outcome.
"Viggimdex bscscanns, Mrs. Viggins.""Oh, indeed! You are a married woman?"
"No, hi'm a vidder. What's more, hi'm cold, and drippin', an' 'ungry. Hi might 'a' better stayed at the poor-us than come to a place like this.""What!" almost screamed Mrs. Mumpson, "are you a pauper?""Hi tell ye hi'm a vidder, an' good as you be, for hall he said," was the sullen reply."To think that a respecterbly connected woman like me--" But for once Mrs. Mumpson found language inadequate. Since Mrs. Wiggins occupied the rocking chair, she hardly knew what to do and plaintively declared, "I feel as if my whole nervous system was giving way.""No 'arm 'll be done hif hit does," remarked Mrs. Wiggins, who was not in an amiable mood.
"This from the female I'm to superintend!" gasped the bewildered woman.Her equanimity was still further disturbed by the entrance of the farmer, who looked at the stove with a heavy frown.What would our father have said to such a proposal?"Josephine hung her head. The baroness groaned.
"No, mother," continued Rose; "let house and land go, but honor andtrue nobility remain.""What shall I do? you are cruel to me, Rose.""Mamma," cried the enthusiastic girl, "we need depend on no one.Josephine and I have youth and spirit.""But no money.""We have plenty of jewels, and pictures, and movables. We can takea farm.""A farm!" shrieked the baroness."Why, his uncle has a farm, and we have had recourse to him forhelp: better a farmhouse than an almshouse, though that almshousewere a palace instead of a chateau."Josephine winced and held up her hand deprecatingly. The baronesspaled: it was a terrible stroke of language to come from herdaughter. She said sternly, "There is no answer to that. We wereborn nobles, let us die farmers: only permit me to die first.""Forgive me, mother," said Rose, kneeling. "I was wrong; it is forme to obey you, not to dictate. I speak no more." And, afterkissing her mother and Josephine, she crept away, but she left herwords sticking in both their consciences."HIS uncle," said the shrewd old lady. "She is no longer a child;and she says his uncle. This makes me half suspect it is her thatdear boy--Josephine, tell me the truth, which of you is it?""Dear mother, who should it be? they are nearly of an age: and whatman would not love our sweet Rose, that had eyes or a heart?"The baroness sighed deeply; and was silent. After awhile she said,"The moment they have a lover, he detaches their hearts from theirpoor old mother. She is no longer what my Josephine is to me.""Mamma, she is my superior. I see it more and more every day. Sheis proud: she is just; she looks at both sides. As for me, I am tooapt to see only what will please those I love.""And that is the daughter for me," cried the poor baroness, openingher arms wide to her.
The next morning when they were at breakfast, in came Jacintha tosay the officer was in the dining-room and wanted to speak with theyoung lady he talked to yesterday. Josephine rose and went to him."Well, mademoiselle," said he gayly, "the old woman was right. HereI have just got my orders to march: to leave France in a month. Apretty business it would have been if I had turned your mother out.
So you see there is nothing to hinder you from living here.""In your house, sir?""Why not, pray?""Forgive us. But we feel that would be unjust to you, humiliatingto us: the poor are sometimes proud.""Of course they are," said Raynal: "and I don't want to offend yourpride. Confound the house: why did I go and buy it? It is no useto me except to give pain to worthy people." He then, after amoment's reflection, asked her if the matter could not be arrangedby some third party, a mutual friend. "Then again," said he, "Idon't know any friend of yours.""Yes, sir," said Josephine; "we have one friend, who knows you, andesteems you highly."She wanted to name Edouard; but she hesitated, and asked herconscience if it was fair to name him: and while she blushed andhesitated, lo and behold a rival referee hove in sight. Raynal sawhim, suddenly opened a window, and shouted, "Hallo come in here: youare wanted."Perrin had ridden up to complete the exodus of the De Beaurepaires,and was strolling about inspecting the premises he had expelled themfrom.Here was a pretty referee!Josephine almost screamed--"What are you doing? that is our enemy,our bitterest enemy. He has only sold you the estate to spite us,not for the love of you. I had--we had--we mortified his vanity.It was not our fault: he is a viper. Sir, pray, pray, pray be onyour guard against his counsels."These words spoken with rare fire and earnestness carriedconviction: but it was too late to recall the invitation. Thenotary entered the room, and was going to bow obsequiously toRaynal, when he caught sight of Josephine, and almost started.
Raynal, after Josephine's warning, was a little at a loss how tomake him available; and even that short delay gave the notary's onefoible time to lead him into temptation. "Our foibles are ourmanias.""So," said he, "you have taken possession, commandant. Thesemilitary men are prompt, are they not, mademoiselle?""Do not address yourself to me, sir, I beg," said Josephine quietly.Perrin kept his self-command. "It is only as Commandant Raynal'sagent I presume to address so distinguished a lady: in thatcharacter I must inform you that whatever movables you have removedare yours: those we find in the house on entering we keep.""Come, come, not so fast," cried Raynal; "bother the chairs andtables! that is not the point.""Commandant," said the notary with dignity, "have I done anything tomerit this? have I served your interests so ill that you withdrawyour confidence from me?""No, no, my good fellow; but you exceed your powers. Just now Iwant you to take orders, not give them.""That is only just," said Perrin, "and I recall my hasty remark:excuse the susceptibility of a professional man, who is honored withthe esteem of his clients; and favor me with your wishes.""All right," said Raynal heartily. "Well, then--I want mademoiselleand her family to stay here while I go to Egypt with the FirstConsul. Mademoiselle makes difficulties; it offends her delicacy.""Comedy!" said the notary contemptuously."Though her mother's life depends on her staying here.""Comedy!" said Perrin. Raynal frowned.
"Her pride (begging her pardon) is greater than her affection.""Farce!""I have pitched upon you to reconcile the two.""Then you have pitched upon the wrong man," said Perrin bluntly. Headded obsequiously, "I am too much your friend. She has beentalking you over, no doubt; but you have a friend, an Ulysses, whois deaf to the siren's voice. I will be no party to such atransaction. I will not co-operate to humbug my friend and rob himof his rights."If Josephine was inferior to the notary in petty sharpness, she washis superior in the higher kinds of sagacity; and particularly ininstinctive perception of character. Her eye flashed with delightat the line Perrin was now taking with Raynal. The latter speedilyjustified her expectations: he just told Perrin to be off, and sendhim a more accommodating notary."A more accommodating notary!" screamed Perrin, stung to madness bythis reproach. "There is not a more accommodating notary in Europe.
Ungrateful man! is this the return for all my zeal, my integrity, myunselfishness? Is there another agent in the world who would havelet such a bargain as Beaurepaire fall into your hands? It servesme right for deviating from the rules of business. Send me anotheragent--oh!"The honest soldier was confused. The lawyer's eloquence overpoweredhim. He felt guilty. Josephine saw his simplicity, and made a cutwith a woman's two-edged sword. "Sir," said she coolly, "do you notsee it is an affair of money? This is his way of saying, Pay mehandsomely for so unusual a commission.""And I'll pay him double," cried Raynal, catching the idea; "don'tbe alarmed, I'll pay you for it.""And my zeal, my devotion?""Put 'em in figures.""And my prob--?""Add it up.""And my integ--?""Add them together: and don't bother me.""I see! I see! my poor soldier. You are no match for a woman'stongue.""Nor, for a notary's. Go to h---, and send in your bill!" roaredthe soldier in a fury. "Well, will you go?" and he marched at him.The notary scuttled out, with something between a snarl and a squeak.
Josephine hid her face in her hands."What is the matter with you?" inquired Raynal. "Not crying again,surely!""Me! I never cry--hardly. I hid my face because I could not helplaughing. You frightened me, sir," said she: then very demurely, "Iwas afraid you were going to beat him.""No, no; a good soldier never leathers a civilian if he can possiblyhelp it; it looks so bad; and before a lady!""Oh, I would have forgiven you, monsieur," said Josephine benignly,and something like a little sun danced in her eye."Now, mademoiselle, since my referee has proved a pig, it is yourturn. Choose you a mutual friend."Josephine hesitated. "Ours is so young. You know him very well.You are doubtless the commandant of whom I once heard him speak withsuch admiration: his name is Riviere, Edouard Riviere.""Know him? he is my best officer, out and out." And without amoment's hesitation he took Edouard's present address, and acceptedthat youthful Daniel as their referee; then looked at his watch andmarched off to his public duties with sabre clanking at his heels.The notary went home gnashing his teeth. His sweet revenge wasturned to wormwood this day. Raynal's parting commissions rang inhis ear; in his bitter mood the want of logical sequence in the twoorders disgusted him.So he inverted them.
He sent in a thundering bill the very next morning, but postponedthe other commission till his dying day.As for Josephine, she came into the drawing-room beaming with loveand happiness, and after kissing both her mother and Rose withgentle violence, she let them know the strange turn things hadtaken.
And she whispered to Rose, "Only think, YOUR Edouard to be OURreferee!"Rose blushed and bent over her work; and wondered how Edouard woulddischarge so grave an office.The matter approached a climax; for, as the reader is aware, Edouardwas hourly expected at Beaurepaire.
He did not come; but it was not his fault. On receiving Rose'sletter he declined to stay another hour at his uncle's.He flung himself on his horse; and, before he was well settled onthe stirrups, the animal shied violently at a wheelbarrow some foolhad left there; and threw Edouard on the stones of the courtyard.
He jumped up in a moment and laughed at Marthe's terror; meantime afarm-servant caught the nag and brought him back to his work.But when Edouard went to put his hand on the saddle, he found itwould not obey him. "Wait a minute," said he; "my arm is benumbed.""Let me see!" said the farmer, and examined the limb himself;"benumbed? yes; and no wonder. Jacques, get on the brute and ridefor the surgeon.""Are you mad, uncle?" cried Edouard. "I can't spare my horse, and Iwant no surgeon; it will be well directly.""It will be worse before it is better.""I don't know what you mean, uncle; it is only numbed, ah! it hurtswhen I rub it.""It is worse than numbed, boy; it is broken.""Broken? nonsense:" and he looked at it in piteous bewilderment:"how can it be broken? it does not hurt except when I touch it.""It WILL hurt: I know all about it. I broke mine fifteen years ago:fell off a haystack.""Oh, how unfortunate I am!" cried Edouard, piteously. "But I willgo to Beaurepaire all the same. I can have the thing mended there,as well as here.""You will go to bed," said the old man, quietly; "that is whereYOU'LL go.""I'll go to blazes sooner," yelled the young one.
The old man made a signal to his myrmidons, whom Marthe's cries hadbrought around, and four stout fellows took hold of Edouard by thelegs and the left shoulder and carried him up-stairs raging andkicking; and deposited him on a bed.Presently he began to feel faint, and so more reasonable. They cuthis coat off, and put him in a loose wrapper, and after considerabledelay the surgeon came, and set his arm skilfully, and behold thisardent spirit caged. He chafed and fretted sadly. Fortitude wasnot his forte.
It was two days after his accident. He was lying on his back,environed by slops and cursing his evil fate, and fretting his soulout of its fleshly prison, when suddenly he heard a cheerfultrombone saying three words to Marthe, then came a clink-clank, andMarthe ushered into the sickroom the Commandant Raynal. The sickman raised himself in bed, with great surprise and joy."O commandant! this is kind to come and see your poor officer inpurgatory.""Ah," cried Raynal, "you see I know what it is. I have been chaineddown by the arm, and the leg, and all: it is deadly tiresome.""Tiresome! it is--it is--oh, dear commandant, Heaven bless you forcoming!""Ta! ta! ta! I am come on my own business.""All the better. I have nothing to do; that is what kills me. I'meating my own heart.""Cannibal! Well, my lad, since you are in that humor, cheer up, forI bring you a job, and a tough one; it has puzzled me.""What is it, commandant? What is it?""Well, do you know a house and a family called Beaurepaire?""Do I know Beaurepaire?"And the pale youth turned very red; and stared with awe at thiswizard of a commandant. He thought he was going to be called overthe coals for frequenting a disaffected family. "Well," saidRaynal, "I have been and bought this Beaurepaire."Edouard uttered a loud exclamation. "It was YOU bought it! shenever told me that.""Yes," said Raynal, "I am the culprit; and we have fixed on you toundo my work without hurting their pride too much, poor souls; butlet us begin with the facts."Then Raynal told him my story after his fashion. Of course I shallnot go and print his version; you might like his concise way betterthan my verbose; and I'm not here to hold up any man's coat-tails.
Short as he made it, Edouard's eyes were moist more than once; andat the end he caught Raynal's hand and kissed it. Then he askedtime to reflect; "for," said he, "I must try and be just.""I'll give you an hour," said Raynal, with an air of grandmunificence. The only treasure he valued was time.In less than an hour Edouard had solved the knot, to his entiresatisfaction; he even gave the commandant particular instructionsfor carrying out his sovereign decree. Raynal received these ordersfrom his subordinate with that simplicity which formed part of hisamazing character, and rode home relieved of all responsibility inthe matter.
COMMANDANT RAYNAL TO MADEMOISELLE DE BEAUREPAIRE.Mademoiselle,--Before I could find time to write to our referee,news came in that he had just broken his arm;--"Oh! oh, dear! our poor Edouard!"And if poor Edouard had seen the pale faces, and heard the falteringaccents, it would have reconciled him to his broken arm almost.This hand-grenade the commandant had dropped so coolly among them,it was a long while ere they could recover from it enough to readthe rest of the letter,--so I rode over to him, and found him on his back, fretting for wantof something to do. I told him the whole story. He undertook thebusiness. I have received his instructions, and next week shall beat his quarters to clear off his arrears of business, and makeacquaintance with all your family, if they permit.RAYNAL.
As the latter part of this letter seemed to require a reply, thebaroness wrote a polite note, and Jacintha sent Dard to leave it forthe commandant at Riviere's lodgings. But first they all sat downand wrote kind and pitying and soothing letters to Edouard. Need Isay these letters fell upon him like balm?They all inquired carelessly in their postscripts what he haddecided as their referee. He replied mysteriously that they wouldknow that in a week or two. Meantime, all he thought it prudent totell them was that he had endeavored to be just to both parties.
"Little solemn puppy," said Rose, and was racked with curiosity.Next week Raynal called on the baroness. She received him alone.
They talked about Madame Raynal. The next day he dined with thewhole party, and the commandant's manners were the opposite of whatthe baroness had inculcated. But she had a strong prejudice in hisfavor. Had her feelings been the other way his brusquerie wouldhave shocked her. It amused her. If people's hearts are with you,THAT for their heads!He came every day for a week, chatted with the baroness, walked withthe young ladies; and when after work he came over in the evening,Rose used to cross-examine him, and out came such descriptions ofbattles and sieges, such heroism and such simplicity mixed, as madethe evening pass delightfully. On these occasions the young ladiesfixed their glowing eyes on him, and drank in his character as wellas his narrative, in which were fewer "I's" than in anything of thesort you ever read or heard.