The baroness sold her carriage and horses, and she and her daughtersprepared to deny themselves all but the bare necessaries of life,and pay offbitcoin cash bch news their debts if possible. On this their dependants fellaway from them; their fair-weather friends came no longer near them;and many a flush of indignation crossed their brows, and many anaching pang their hearts, as adversity revealed the baseness andinconstancy of common people high or low.
Thus they continued chatting while Alida cleared up the table, and Holcroft, having lighted his pipe, busied himself with peeling a long, slim hickory sapling intended for a whipstock.buy bitcoin with credit card on binanceHaving finished her tasks, Alida was finally drying her hands on a towel that hung near a window. Suddenly, she caught sight of a dark face peering in. Her startled cry brought Holcroft hastily to his feet. "What's the matter?" he asked.
"I saw--" Then she hesitated from a fear that he would rush into some unknown danger.The rough crew without perceived that their presence was known, and Tim Weeks cried, "Now, all together!"A frightful overture began at once, the hooting and yelling almost drowning the instrumental part and sending to Alida's heart that awful chill of fear produced by human voices in any mob-like assemblage. Holcroft understood the affair at once, for he was familiar with the custom, but she did not. He threw open the door with the purpose of sternly expostulating with the disturbers of the peace and of threatening them with the law unless they retired. With an instinct to share his danger she stepped to his side, and this brought a yell of derision. Lurid thoughts swept through her mind. She had brought this danger. Her story had become known. What might they not do to Holcroft? Under the impulse of vague terror and complete self-sacrifice, she stepped forward and cried, "I only am to blame. I will go away forever if you will spare--" But again the scornful clamor rose and drowned her voice.Her action and words had been so swift that Holcroft could not interfere, but in an instant he was at her side, his arm around her, his square jaw set, and his eyes blazing with his kindling anger. He was not one of those men who fume early under provocation and in words chiefly. His manner and gesture were so impressive that his tormentors paused to listen."I know," he said quietly, "all about this old, rude custom--that it's often little more than a rough lark. Well, now that you've had it, leave at once. I'm in no mood for such attention from my neighbors. This is my wife, and I'll break any man's head who says a word to hurt her feelings--"
"Oh yes! Take care of her feelings, now it's your turn. They must 'a' been hurt before," piped up Tim Weeks."Good for you, old man, for showin' us your poorhouse bride," said another."Well, then, will you do something for me?"Such a proposal was not only a relief, but a delight to thedeceiving but loving daughter. She started up crying, "Oh, yes,mamma; anything, everything. Oh, thank you!" In the ardor of hergratitude, she wanted to kiss her mother; but the baroness declinedthe embrace politely, and said, coldly and bitterly, "I shall notask much; I should not venture now to draw largely on youraffection; it's only to write a few lines for me."Rose got paper and ink with great alacrity, and sat down allbeaming, pen in hand.
The baroness dictated the letter slowly, with an eye gimleting herdaughter all the time."Dear--Monsieur--Riviere."The pen fell from Rose's hand, and she turned red and then pale."What! write to him?""Not in your own name; in mine. But perhaps you prefer to give methe trouble.""Cruel! cruel!" sighed Rose, and wrote the words as requested.The baroness dictated again,--"Oblige me by coming here at your very earliest convenience.""But, mamma, if he is in Normandy," remonstrated Rose, fightingevery inch of the ground.
"Never you mind where he is," said the baroness. "Write as Irequest.""Yes, mamma," said Rose with sudden alacrity; for she had recoveredher ready wit, and was prepared to write anything, being now fullyresolved the letter should never go."Now sign my name." Rose complied. "There; now fold it, andaddress it to his lodgings." Rose did so; and, rising with acheerful air, said she would send Jacintha with it directly.
She was half across the room when her mother called her quietlyback."No, mademoiselle," said she sternly. "You will give me the letter.I can trust neither the friend of twenty years, nor the servant thatstayed by me in adversity, nor the daughter I suffered for andnursed. And why don't I trust you? Because YOU HAVE TOLD ME ALIE."At this word, which in its coarsest form she had never heard fromthose high-born lips till then, Rose cowered like a hare."Ay, A LIE," said the baroness. "I saw Edouard Riviere in the parkbut yesterday. I saw him. My old eyes are feeble, but they are notdeceitful. I saw him. Send my breakfast to my own room. I come ofan ancient race: I could not sit with liars; I should forgetcourtesy; you would see in my face how thoroughly I scorn you all."And she went haughtily out with the letter in her hand.
Rose for the first time, was prostrated. Vain had been all thisdeceit; her mother was not happy; was not blinded. Edouard mightcome and tell her his story. Then no power could keep Josephinesilent. The plot was thickening; the fatal net was drawing closerand closer.She sank with a groan into a chair, and body and spirit alikesuccumbed. But that was only for a little while. To thisprostration succeeded a feverish excitement. She could not, wouldnot, look Edouard in the face. She would implore Josephine to besilent; and she herself would fly from the chateau. But, ifJosephine would not be silent? Why, then she would go herself toEdouard, and throw herself upon his honor, and tell him the truth.With this, she ran wildly up the stairs, and burst into Josephine'sroom so suddenly, that she caught her, pale as death, on her knees,with a letter in one hand and a phial of laudanum in the other.Chapter 24
Josephine conveyed the phial into her bosom with wonderful rapidityand dexterity, and rose to her feet. But Rose just saw her concealsomething, and resolved to find out quietly what it was. So shesaid nothing about it, but asked Josephine what on earth she wasdoing."I was praying.""And what is that letter?""A letter I have just received from Colonel Raynal."Rose took the letter and read it. Raynal had written from Paris.
He was coming to Beaurepaire to stay a month, and was to arrive thatvery day.Then Rose forgot all about herself, and even what she had come for.
She clung about her sister's neck, and implored her, for her sake,to try and love Raynal.Josephine shuddered, and clung weeping to her sister in turn. Forin Rose's arms she realized more powerfully what that sister wouldsuffer if she were to die. Now, while they clung together, Rosefelt something hard, and contrived just to feel it with her cheek.It was the phial.A chill suspicion crossed the poor girl. The attitude in which shehad found Josephine; the letter, the look of despair, and now thislittle bottle, which she had hidden. WHY HIDE IT? She resolved notto let Josephine out of her sight; at all events, until she had seenthis little bottle, and got it away from her.She helped her to dress, and breakfasted with her in the tapestriedroom, and dissembled, and put on gayety, and made light ofeverything but Josephine's health.Her efforts were not quite in vain. Josephine became more composed;and Rose even drew from her a half promise that she would giveRaynal and time a fair trial.
And now Rose was relieved of her immediate apprehensions forJosephine, but the danger of another kind, from Edouard, remained.So she ran into her bedroom for her bonnet and shawl, determined totake the strong measure of visiting Edouard at once, or interceptinghim. While she was making her little toilet, she heard her mother'svoice in the room. This was unlucky; she must pass through thatroom to go out. She sat down and fretted at this delay. And then,as the baroness appeared to be very animated, Rose went to thekeyhole, and listened. Their mother was telling Josephine how shehad questioned Rose, and how Rose had told her an untruth, and howshe had made that young lady write to Edouard, etc.; in short, thevery thing Rose wanted to conceal from Josephine.
Rose lost all patience, and determined to fly through the room andout before anybody could stop her. She heard Jacintha come in withsome message, and thought that would be a good opportunity to slipout unmolested. So she opened the door softly. Jacintha, itseemed, had been volunteering some remark that was not wellreceived, for the baroness was saying, sharply, "Your opinion is notasked. Go down directly, and bring him up here, to this room."Jacintha cast a look of dismay at Rose, and vanished.Rose gathered from that look, as much as from the words, who thevisitor was. She made a dart after Jacintha. But the room was along one, and the baroness intercepted her: "No," said she, gravely,"I cannot spare you."Rose stood pale and panting, but almost defiant. "Mamma," said she,"if it is Monsieur Riviere, I MUST ask your leave to retire. Andyou have neither love nor pity, nor respect for me, if you detainme.""Mademoiselle!" was the stern reply, "I FORBID you to move. Be goodenough to sit there;" with which the baroness pointed imperiously toa sofa at the other side of the room. "Josephine, go to your room."Josephine retired, casting more than one anxious glance over hershoulder.
Rose looked this way and that in despair and terror; but ended bysinking, more dead than alive, into the seat indicated; and even asshe drooped, pale and trembling, on that sofa, Edouard Riviere, wornand agitated, entered the room, and bowed low to them all, without aword.The baroness looked at him, and then at her daughter, as much as tosay, now I have got you; deceive me now if you can. "Rose, mydear," said this terrible old woman, affecting honeyed accents,"don't you see Monsieur Riviere?"The poor girl at this challenge rose with difficulty, and courtesiedhumbly to Edouard.
He bowed to her, and stealing a rapid glance saw her pallor anddistress; and that showed him she was not so hardened as he hadthought."You have not come to see us lately," said the baroness, quietly,"yet you have been in the neighborhood."These words puzzled Edouard. Was the old lady all in the dark,then? As a public man he had already learned to be on his guard; sohe stammered out, "That he had been much occupied with publicduties."Madame de Beaurepaire despised this threadbare excuse too much tonotice it at all. She went on as if he had said nothing. "Intimateas you were with us, you must have some reason for deserting us sosuddenly.""I have," said Edouard, gravely."What is it?""Excuse me," said Edouard, sullenly."No, monsieur, I cannot. This neglect, succeeding to a somewhatardent pursuit of my daughter, is almost an affront. You shall, ofcourse, withdraw yourself altogether, if you choose. But notwithout an explanation. This much is due to me; and, if you are agentleman, you will not withhold it from me.""If he is a gentleman!" cried Rose; "O mamma, do not you affront agentleman, who never, never gave you nor me any ground of offence.
Why affront the friends and benefactors we have lost by our ownfault?""Oh, then, it is all your fault," said the baroness. "I feared asmuch.""All my fault, all," said Rose; then putting her pretty palmstogether, and casting a look of abject supplication on Edouard, shemurmured, "my temper!""Do not you put words into his mouth," said the shrewd old lady."Come, Monsieur Riviere, be a man, and tell me the truth. What hasshe said to you? What has she done?"By this time the abject state of terror the high-spirited Rose wasin, and her piteous glances, had so disarmed Edouard, that he hadnot the heart to expose her to her mother.
"Madame," said he, stiffly, taking Rose's hint, "my temper andmademoiselle's could not accord.""Why, her temper is charming: it is joyous, equal, and gentle.""You misunderstand me, madame; I do not reproach Mademoiselle Rose.It is I who am to blame.""For what?" inquired the baroness dryly.
"For not being able to make her love me.""Oh! that is it! She did not love you?""Ask herself, madame," said Edouard, bitterly."Rose," said the baroness, her eye now beginning to twinkle, "wereyou really guilty of such a want of discrimination? Didn't you lovemonsieur?"Rose flung her arms round her mother's neck, and said, "No, mamma, Idid not love Monsieur Edouard," in an exquisite tone of love, thatto a female ear conveyed the exact opposite of the words.
But Edouard had not that nice discriminating ear. He sighed deeply,and the baroness smiled. "You tell me that?" said she, "and you arecrying!""She is crying, madame?" said Edouard, inquiringly, and taking astep towards them."Why, you see she is, you foolish boy. Come, I must put an end tothis;" and she rose coolly from her seat, and begging Edouard toforgive her for leaving him a moment with his deadly enemy, went offwith knowing little nods into Josephine's room; only, before sheentered it, she turned, and with a maternal smile discharged thisword at the pair."Babies!"But between the alienated lovers was a long distressing silence.Neither knew what to say; and their situation was intolerable. Atlast Rose ventured in a timorous voice to say, "I thank you for yourgenerosity. But I knew that you would not betray me.""Your secret is safe for me," sighed Edouard. "Is there anythingelse I can do for you?"Rose shook her head sadly.
Edouard moved to the door.Rose bowed her head with a despairing moan. It took him by theheart and held him. He hesitated, then came towards her.
"I see you are sorry for what you have done to me who loved you so;and you loved me. Oh! yes, do not deny it, Rose; there was a timeyou loved me. And that makes it worse: to have given me such sweethopes, only to crush both them and me. And is not this cruel of youto weep so and let me see your penitence--when it is too late?""Alas! how can I help my regrets? I have insulted so good afriend."There was a sad silence. Then as he looked at her, her looks beliedthe charge her own lips had made against herself.A light seemed to burst on Edouard from that high-minded, sorrow-stricken face.
"Tell me it is false!" he cried.She hid her face in her hands--woman's instinct to avoid being read.