"Seems to me you are only the second unluckiest this time," said aethereum chart with moving averageyoung soldier with his mouth full; and, with a certain dry humor, hepointed vaguely over his shoulder with the fork towards the corpse.
Presently she raised her head quickly; a sound had reached her ear,--a sound so slight that none but a high-strung ear could have caughtit. It was like a mouse giving a single scratch against a stonewall.bitcoin mining energyRose coughed slightly.
On this a clearer sound was heard, as of a person scratching woodwith the finger-nail. Rose darted to the side of the room, pressedagainst the wall, and at the same time put her other hand againstthe rim of one of the panels and pushed it laterally; it yielded,and at the opening stood Jacintha in her cloak and bonnet."Yes," said Jacintha, "under my cloak--look!""Ah! you found the things on the steps?""Yes! I nearly tumbled over them. Have you locked that door?""No, but I will." And Rose glided to the door and locked it. Thenshe put the screen up between Josephine's room and the open panel:then she and Jacintha were wonderfully busy on the other side thescreen, but presently Rose said, "This is imprudent; you must godown to the foot of the stairs and wait till I call you."Jacintha pleaded hard against this arrangement, and represented thatthere was no earthly chance of any one coming to that part of thechateau."No matter; I will be guarded on every side.""Mustn't I stop and just see her happy for once?""No, my poor Jacintha, you must hear it from my lips."Jacintha retired to keep watch as she was bid. Rose went toJosephine's room, and threw her arms round her neck and kissed hervehemently. Josephine returned her embrace, then held her out atarm's length and looked at her."Your eyes are red, yet your little face is full of joy. There, yousmile.""I can't help that; I am so happy.""I am glad of it. Are you coming to bed?""Not yet. I invite you to take a little walk with me first. Come!"and she led the way slowly, looking back with infinite archness andtenderness.
"You almost frighten me," said Josephine; "it is not like you to beall joy when I am sad. Three whole weeks more!""That is it. Why are you sad? because the doctor would not let yougo to Frejus. And why am I not sad? because I had already thoughtof a way to let you see Edouard without going so far.""Rose! O Rose! O Rose!""This way--come!" and she smiled and beckoned with her finger, whileJosephine followed like one under a spell, her bosom heaving, hereye glancing on every side, hoping some strange joy, yet scarcedaring to hope.Rose drew back the screen, and there was a sweet little berceau thathad once been Josephine's own, and in it, sunk deep in snow-whitelawn, was a sleeping child, that lay there looking as a rose mightlook could it fall upon new-fallen snow."However, here I am," concluded Marcellus, "invalided for awhile, mylady, but not expended yet: we will soon dash in among them againfor death or glory. Meantime," concluded he, filling both glasses,"let us drink to the eyes of beauty (military salute); and to therenown of France; and double damnation to all her traitors, likethat Captain Dujardin; whose neck may the devil twist."Ere they could drink to this energetic toast, a low wail at thedoor, like a dying hare's, arrested the glasses on their road, andthe rough soldiers stood transfixed, and looked at one another insome dismay. Rose flew to the door with a face full of concern.
Josephine was gone.Then Rose had the tact and resolution to say a few kind, encouragingwords to the soldiers, and bid Jacintha be hospitable to them. Thisdone she darted up-stairs after Josephine; she reached the maincorridor just in time to see her creep along it with the air andcarriage of a woman of fifty, and enter her own room.Rose followed softly with wet eyes, and turned the handle gently.But the door was locked.
"Josephine! Josephine!"No answer."I want to speak to you. I am frightened. Oh, do not be alone."A choking voice answered, "Give me a little while to draw mybreath." Rose sank down at the door, and sat close to it, with herhead against it, sobbing bitterly. She was hurt at not being letin; such a friend as she had proved herself. But this personalfeeling was only a fraction of her grief and anxiety.
A good half hour elapsed ere Josephine, pale and stern as no one hadever seen her till that hour, suddenly opened the door. She startedat sight of Rose couched sorrowful on the threshold; her stern lookrelaxed into tender love and pity; she sank, blushing, on her knees,and took her sister's head quickly to her bosom. "Oh, my littlelove, have you been here all this time?"--"Oh! oh! oh!" was all thelittle love could reply. Then the deserted one, still kneeling,took Rose in her lap, and caressed and comforted her, and pouredwords of gratitude and affection over her like a warm shower.They rose hand in hand.Then Rose suddenly seized Josephine, and looked long and anxiouslydown into her eyes. They flashed fire under the scrutiny. "Yes, itis all over; I could not despise and love. I am dead to him, as heis dead to France."This was joyful news to Rose. "I hoped it would be so," said she;"but you frightened me. My noble sister, were I ever to lose youresteem, I should die. Oh, how awful yet how beautiful is yourscorn. For worlds I would not be that Cam"-- Josephine laid herhand imperiously on Rose's mouth. "To mention his name to me willbe to insult me; De Beaurepaire I am, and a Frenchwoman. Come,dear, let us go down and comfort our mother."They went down; and this patient sufferer, and high mindedconqueror, of her own accord took up a commonplace book, and readaloud for two mortal hours to her mother and Aubertin. Her voiceonly wavered twice.To feel that life is ended; to wish existence, too, had ceased; andso to sit down, an aching hollow, and take a part and sham aninterest in twaddle to please others; such are woman's feats. Howlike nothing at all they look!
A man would rather sit on the buffer of a steam-engine and ride atthe Great Redan.Rose sat at her elbow, a little behind her, and turned the leaves,and on one pretence or other held Josephine's hand nearly all therest of the day. Its delicate fibres remained tense, like agreyhound's sinews after a race, and the blue veins rose to sight init, though her voice and eyes were mastered.So keen was the strife, so matched the antagonists, so hard thevictory.For ire and scorn are mighty. And noble blood in a noble heart isheroic. And Love is a giant.
Chapter 2The French provinces were now organized upon a half military plan,by which all the local authorities radiated towards a centre ofgovernment. By-the-by, this feature has survived subsequentrevolutions and political changes.
In days of change, youth is at a premium; because, though experienceis valuable, the experience of one order of things unfits ordinarymen for another order of things. So a good many old fogies inoffice were shown the door, and a good deal of youth and energyinfused into the veins of provincial government. For instance,Edouard Riviere, who had but just completed his education withsingular eclat at a military school, was one fine day ordered intoBrittany to fill a responsible post under Commandant Raynal, ablunt, rough soldier, that had risen from the ranks, and bore a muchhigher character for zeal and moral integrity than for affability.This officer was the son of a widow that kept a grocer's shop inParis. She intended him for spice, but he thirsted for glory, andvexed her. So she yielded, as mothers will.
In the armies of the republic a good soldier rose with unparalleledcertainty, and rapidity, too; for when soldiers are being mowed downlike oats, it is a glorious time for such of them as keep theirfeet. Raynal mounted fast, and used to write to his mother, andjoke her about the army being such a bad profession; and, as he wasall for glory, not money, he lived with Spartan frugality, and savedhalf his pay and all his prize money for the old lady in Paris.But this prosperous man had to endure a deep disappointment; on thevery day he was made commandant and one of the general's aides-de-camp, came a letter into the camp. His mother was dead after ashort illness. This was a terrible blow to the simple, ruggedsoldier, who had never had much time nor inclination to flirt with alot of girls, and toughen his heart. He came back to Paris honoredand rich, but downcast. The old home, empty of his mother, seemedto him not to have the old look. It made him sadder. To cheer himup they brought him much money. The widow's trade had taken awonderful start the last few years, and she had been playing thesame game as he had, living on ten-pence a day, and saving all forhim. This made him sadder, if anything."What," said he, "have we both been scraping all this dross togetherfor? I would give it all to sit one hour by the fire, with her handin mine, and hear her say, 'Scamp, you made me unhappy when you wereyoung, but I have lived to be proud of you.'"He applied for active service, no matter what: obtained at once thispost in Brittany, and threw himself into it with that honest zealand activity, which are the best earthly medicine for all ourgriefs. He was busy writing, when young Riviere first presentedhimself. He looked up for a moment, and eyed him, to take hismeasure; then put into his hand a report by young Nicole, asubordinate filling a post of the same nature as Riviere's; and badehim analyze that report on the spot: with this he instantly resumedhis own work.Edouard Riviere was an adept at this sort of task, and soon handedhim a neat analysis. Raynal ran his eye over it, nodded coldapproval, and told him to take this for the present as a guide as tohis own duties. He then pointed to a map on which Riviere'sdistrict was marked in blue ink, and bade him find the centre of it.Edouard took a pair of compasses off the table, and soon discoveredthat the village of Beaurepaire was his centre. "Then quarteryourself at Beaurepaire; and good-day," said Raynal.The chateau was in sight from Riviere's quarters, and he soonlearned that it belonged to a royalist widow and her daughters, whoall three held themselves quite aloof from the rest of the world.
"Ah," said the young citizen, "I see. If these rococo citizens playthat game with me, I shall have to take them down." Thus a freshperil menaced this family, on whose hearts and fortunes such heavyblows had fallen.One evening our young official, after a day spent in the service ofthe country, deigned to take a little stroll to relieve the cares ofadministration. He imprinted on his beardless face the expressionof a wearied statesman, and strolled through an admiring village.
The men pretended veneration from policy; the women, whose views ofthis great man were shallower but more sincere, smiled approval ofhis airs; and the young puppy affected to take no notice of eithersex.Outside the village, Publicola suddenly encountered two youngladies, who resembled nothing he had hitherto met with in hisdistrict; they were dressed in black, and with extreme simplicity;but their easy grace and composure, and the refined sentiment oftheir gentle faces, told at a glance they belonged to the highnobility. Publicola divined them at once, and involuntarily raisedhis hat to so much beauty and dignity, instead of poking it with afinger as usual. On this the ladies instantly courtesied to himafter the manner of their party, with a sweep and a majesty, and aprecision of politeness, that the pup would have laughed at if hehad heard of it; but seeing it done, and well done, and by lovelywomen of rank, he was taken aback by it, and lifted his hat again,and bowed again after he had gone by, and was generally flustered.
In short, instead of a member of the Consular Government salutingprivate individuals of a decayed party that existed only bysufferance, a handsome, vain, good-natured boy had met two self-possessed young ladies of distinction and breeding, and had cut theusual figure.For the next hundred yards his cheeks burned and his vanity cooled.
But bumptiousness is elastic in France, as in England, and doubtlessamong the Esquimaux. "Well, they are pretty girls," says he tohimself. "I never saw two such pretty girls together; they will dofor me to flirt with while I am banished to this Arcadia." Banishedfrom school, I beg to observe.And "awful beauty" being no longer in sight, Mr. Edouard resolved hewould flirt with them to their hearts' content. But there areladies with whom a certain preliminary is required before you canflirt with them. You must be on speaking terms. How was this to bemanaged?He used to watch at his window with a telescope, and whenever thesisters came out of their own grounds, which unfortunately was notabove twice a week, he would throw himself in their way by themerest accident, and pay them a dignified and courteous salute,which he had carefully got up before a mirror in the privacy of hisown chamber.One day, as he took off his hat to the young ladies, there brokefrom one of them a smile, so sudden, sweet, and vivid, that heseemed to feel it smite him first on the eyes then in the heart. Hecould not sleep for this smile.
Yet he had seen many smilers; but to be sure most of them smiledwithout effect, because they smiled eternally; they seemed cast withtheir mouths open, and their pretty teeth forever in sight; and thishas a saddening influence on a man of sense--when it has any. Buthere a fair, pensive face had brightened at sight of him; a lovelycountenance, on which circumstances, not nature, had impressedgravity, had sprung back to its natural gayety for a moment, and hadthrilled and bewitched the beholder.The next Sunday he went to church--and there worshipped--whom?
Cupid. He smarted for his heathenism; for the young ladies wentwith higher motives, and took no notice of him. They lowered theirlong silken lashes over one breviary, and scarcely observed thehandsome citizen. Meantime he, contemplating their pious beautywith earthly eyes, was drinking long draughts of intoxicatingpassion. And when after the service they each took an arm of Dr.Aubertin, and he with the air of an admiral convoying two shipschoke-full of specie, conducted his precious charge away home, ouryoung citizen felt jealous, and all but hated the worthy doctor.
This went on till he became listless and dejected on the days he didnot see them. Then he asked himself whether he was not a cowardlyfool to keep at such a distance. After all he was a man inauthority. His friendship was not to be despised, least of all by afamily suspected of disaffection to the state.He put on his glossy beaver with enormous brim, high curved; hisblue coat with brass buttons; his white waistcoat, gray breeches,and top-boots; and marched up to the chateau of Beaurepaire, andsent in his card with his name and office inscribed.
Jacintha took it, bestowed a glance of undisguised admiration on theyoung Adonis, and carried it to the baroness. That lady sent herpromptly down again with a black-edged note to this effect.Highly flattered by Monsieur de Riviere's visit, the baroness mustinform him that she receives none but old acquaintances, in thepresent grief of the family, and of the KINGDOM.Young Riviere was cruelly mortified by this rebuff. He went offhurriedly, grinding his teeth with rage."Cursed aristocrats! We have done well to pull you down, and wewill have you lower still. How I despise myself for giving any onethe chance to affront me thus. The haughty old fool; if she hadknown her interest, she would have been too glad to make a powerfulfriend. These royalists are in a ticklish position; I can tell herthat. She calls me De Riviere; that implies nobody without a 'De'
to their name would have the presumption to visit her old tumble-down house. Well, it is a lesson; I am a republican, and theCommonwealth trusts and honors me; yet I am so ungrateful as to goout of the way to be civil to her enemies, to royalists; as if thoseworn-out creatures had hearts, as if they could comprehend thestruggle that took place in my mind between duty, and generosity tothe fallen, before I could make the first overture to theiracquaintance; as if they could understand the politeness of theheart, or anything nobler than curving and ducking and heartlessetiquette. This is the last notice I will ever take of that oldwoman, unless it is to denounce her."He walked home to the town very fast, his heart boiling, and hislips compressed, and his brow knitted.To this mood succeeded a sullen and bitter one. He was generous,but vain, and his love had humiliated him so bitterly, he resolvedto tear it out of his heart. He absented himself from church; hemet the young ladies no more. He struggled fiercely with hispassion; he went about dogged, silent, and sighing. Presently hedevoted his leisure hours to shooting partridges instead of ladies.
And he was right; partridges cannot shoot back; whereas beautifulwomen, like Cupid, are all archers more or less, and often with onearrow from eye or lip do more execution than they have suffered fromseveral discharges of our small shot.In these excursions, Edouard was generally accompanied by a thick-set rustic called Dard, who, I believe, purposes to reveal his owncharacter to you, and so save me that trouble.
One fine afternoon, about four o'clock, this pair burst remorselesslythrough a fence, and landed in the road opposite Bigot's Auberge; along low house, with "ICI ON LOGE A PIED ET A CHEVAL," written allacross it in gigantic letters. Riviere was for moving homeward,but Dard halted and complained dismally of "the soldier's gripes."The statesman had never heard of that complaint, so Dard explainedthat the VULGAR name for it was hunger. "And only smell," said he,"the soup is just fit to come off the fire."Riviere smiled sadly, but consented to deign to eat a morsel in theporch. Thereat Dard dashed wildly into the kitchen.They dined at one little round table, each after his fashion. WhenDard could eat no more, he proceeded to drink; and to talk inproportion. Riviere, lost in his own thoughts, attended to him asmen of business do to a babbling brook; until suddenly from the massof twaddle broke forth a magic word--Beaurepaire; then the languidlover pricked up his ears and found Mr. Dard was abusing that noblefamily right and left. Young Riviere inquired what ground ofoffence they had given HIM. "I'll tell you," said Dard; "theyimpose on Jacintha; and so she imposes on me." Then observing hehad at last gained his employer's ear, he became prodigiouslyloquacious, as such people generally are when once they get upontheir own griefs.