Holcroft, with the simple tact which genuine kindness usually suggests, was attentive to his bride, but managed, by no slight effort for him, to engage the two men in general conversation, so that Alida might have time to recover her composure. His quiet, matter-of-fact bearing wethereum block hash lotteryas reassuring in itself. A cup of strong tea and a little old currant wine, which Watterly insisted on her taking, brightened her up not a little. Indeed her weakness was now largely due to the want of nourishment suited to her feeble condition. Moreover, both nerves and mind found relief and rest in the consciousness that the decisive step had been taken. She was no longer shuddering and recoiling from a past in which each day had revealed more disheartening elements. Her face was now toward a future that promised a refuge, security, and even hope.
"I don't see whatblock bittorrent tracker there's been to look wrong," growled the farmer."Nothing to me and my folks, of course, or I wouldn't suggest the idea of a relation of my wife coming to live with you. But you see people will talk unless you stop their mouths so they'll feel like fools in doing it. I know yours has been a mighty awkward case, and here's a plain way out of it. You can set yourself right and have everything looked after as it ought to be, in twenty-four hours. We've talked to Cynthy--that's Mrs. Mumpson--and she takes a sight of interest. She'd do well by you and straighten things out, and you might do a plaguey sight worse than give her the right to take care of your indoor affairs for life."
"I don't expect to marry again," said Holcroft curtly."Oh, well! Many a man and woman has said that and believed it, too, at the time. I'm not saying that my wife's cousin is inclined that way herself. Like enough, she isn't at all, but then, the right kind of persuading does change women's minds sometimes, eh? Mrs. Mumpson is kinder alone in the world, like yourself, and if she was sure of a good home and a kind husband there's no telling what good luck might happen to you. But there'll be plenty of time for considering all that on both sides. You can't live like a hermit.""I was thinking of selling out and leaving these parts," Holcroft interrupted."Now look here, neighbor, you know as well as I do that in these times you couldn't give away the place. What's the use of such foolishness? The thing to do is to keep the farm and get a good living out of it. You've got down in the dumps and can't see what's sensible and to your own advantage."Holcroft was thinking deeply, and he turned his eyes wistfully to the upland slopes of his farm. Mr. Weeks had talked plausibly, and if all had been as he represented, the plan would not have been a bad one. But the widower did not yearn for the widow. He did not know much about her, but had very unfavorable impressions. Mrs. Holcroft had not been given to speaking ill of anyone, but she had always shaken her head with a peculiar significance when Mrs. Mumpson's name was mentioned.
The widow had felt it her duty to call and counsel against the sin of seclusion and being too much absorbed in the affairs of this world."You should take an interest in everyone," this self-appointed evangelist had declared, and in one sense she lived up to her creed. She permitted no scrap of information about people to escape her, and was not only versed in all the gossip of Oakville, but also of several other localities in which she visited.That evening came a courteous and flattering message from thecommander-in-chief to Colonel Dujardin; and several officers visitedhis quarters to look at him; they went back disappointed. The crywas, "What a miserable, melancholy dog! I expected to see a fine,dashing fellow."The trenches neared the town. Colonel Dujardin's mine was faradvanced; the end of the chamber was within a few yards of thebastion. Of late, the colonel had often visited this mine inperson. He seemed a little uneasy about something in that quarter;but no one knew what: he was a silent man. The third evening, afterhe dismounted Long Tom, he received private notice that an order wascoming down from the commander-in-chief to assault the bastion. Heshrugged his shoulders, but said nothing. That same night thecolonel and one of his lieutenants stole out of the trenches, and bythe help of a pitch-dark, windy night, got under the bastionunperceived, and crept round it, and made their observations, andgot safe back. About noon down came General Raimbaut.
"Well, colonel, you are to have your way at last. Your bastion isto be stormed this afternoon previous to the general assault. Why,how is this? you don't seem enchanted?""I am not.""Why, it was you who pressed for the assault.""At the right time, general, not the wrong. In five days Iundertake to blow that bastion into the air. To assault it nowwould be to waste our men."General Raimbaut thought this excess of caution a great piece ofperversity in Achilles. They were alone, and he said a littlepeevishly,--"Is not this to blow hot and cold on the same thing?""No, general," was the calm reply. "Not on the same thing. I blewhot upon timorous counsels; I blow cold on rash ones. General, lastnight Lieutenant Fleming and I were under that bastion; and allround it.""Ah! my prudent colonel, I thought we should not talk long withoutyour coming out in your true light. If ever a man secretly enjoyedrisking his life, it is you.""No, general," said Dujardin looking gloomily down; "I enjoy neitherthat nor anything else. Live or die, it is all one to me; but tothe lives of my soldiers I am not indifferent, and never will bewhile I live. My apparent rashness of last night was pureprudence."Raimbaut's eye twinkled with suppressed irony. "No doubt!" said he;"no doubt!"The impassive colonel would not notice the other's irony; he wentcalmly on:--"I suspected something; I went to confute, or confirm thatsuspicion. I confirmed it."Rat! tat! tat! tat! tat! tat! tat! was heard a drum. Relievingguard in the mine.Colonel Dujardin interrupted himself."That comes apropos," said he. "I expect one proof more from thatquarter. Sergeant, send me the sentinel they are relieving."Sergeant La Croix soon came back, as pompous as a hen with onechick, predominating with a grand military air over a droll figurethat chattered with cold, and held its musket in hands clothed ingreat mittens. Dard.La Croix marched him up as if he had been a file; halted him like afile, sang out to him as to a file, stentorian and unintelligible,after the manner of sergeants.
"Private No. 4."DARD. P-p-p-present!LA CROIX. Advance to the word of command, and speak to the colonel.
The shivering figure became an upright statue directly, and carriedone of his mittens to his forehead. Then, suddenly recognizing therank of the gray-haired officer, he was morally shaken, but remainedphysically erect, and stammered,--"Colonel!--general!--colonel!""Don't be frightened, my lad. But look at the general and answerme.""Yes! general! colonel!" and he levelled his eye dead at thegeneral, as he would a bayonet at a foe, being so commanded."Now answer in as few syllables as you can.""Yes! general--colonel.""You have been on guard in the mine.""Yes, general.""What did you see there?""Nothing; it was night down there.""What did you feel?""Cold! I--was--in--water--hugh!""Did you hear nothing, then?""Yes.""What?""Bum! bum! bum!""Are you sure you did not hear particles of earth fall at the end ofthe trench?""I think it did, and this (touching his musket) sounded of its ownaccord.""Good! you have answered well; go.""Sergeant, I did not miss a word," cried Dard, exulting. He thoughthe had passed a sort of military college examination. The sergeantwas awe-struck and disgusted at his familiarity, speaking to himbefore the great: he pushed Private Dard hastily out of thepresence, and bundled him into the trenches."Are you countermined, then?" asked General Raimbaut."I think not, general; but the whole bastion is. And we found ithad been opened in the rear, and lately half a dozen broad roads cutthrough the masonry.""To let in re-enforcements?""Or to let the men run out in ease of an assault. I have seen fromthe first an able hand behind that part of the defences. If weassault the bastion, they will pick off as many of us as they canwith their muskets then they will run for it, and fire a train, andblow it and us into the air.""Colonel, this is serious. Are you prepared to lay this statementbefore the commander-in-chief?""I am, and I do so through you, the general of my division. I evenbeg you to say, as from me, that the assault will be mere suicide--bloody and useless."General Raimbaut went off to headquarters in some haste, a thoroughconvert to Colonel Dujardin's opinion. Meantime the colonel wentslowly to his tent. At the mouth of it a corporal, who was also hisbody-servant, met him, saluted, and asked respectfully if there wereany orders.
"A few minutes' repose, Francois, that is all. Do not let me bedisturbed for an hour.""Attention!" cried Francois. "Colonel wants to sleep."The tent was sentinelled, and Dujardin was alone with the past.Then had the fools, that took (as fools will do) deep sorrow forsullenness, seen the fiery soldier droop, and his wan face fall intohaggard lines, and his martial figure shrink, and heard his stoutheart sigh! He took a letter from his bosom: it was almost worn topieces. He had read it a thousand times, yet he read it again. Apart of the sweet sad words ran thus:--"We must bow. We can never be happy together on earth; let us makeHeaven our friend. This is still left us,--not to blush for ourlove; to do our duty, and to die.""How tender, but how firm," thought Camille. "I might agitate,taunt, grieve her I love, but I could not shake her. No! God andthe saints to my aid! they saved me from a crime I now shudder at.And they have given me the good chaplain: he prays with me, he weepsfor me. His prayers still my beating heart. Yes, poor sufferingangel! I read your will in these tender, but bitter, words: youprefer duty to love. And one day you will forget me; not yetawhile, but it will be so. It wounds me when I think of it, but Imust bow. Your will is sacred. I must rise to your level, not dragyou to mine."Then the soldier that had stood between two armies in a hail ofbullets, and fired a master-shot, took a little book of offices inone hand,--the chaplain had given it him,--and fixed his eyes uponthe pious words, and clung like a child to the pious words, andkissed his lost wife's letter, and tried hard to be like her heloved: patient, very patient, till the end should come."Qui vive?" cried the sentinel outside to a strange officer.
"France," was his reply. He then asked the sentinel, "Where is thecolonel commanding the brigade?"The sentinel lowered his voice, "Asleep, my officer," said he; forthe new-comer carried two epaulets."Wake him," said the officer in a tone of a man used to command on alarge scale.
Dujardin heard, and did not choose a stranger should think he wasasleep in broad day. He came hastily out of the tent, therefore,with Josephine's letter in his hand, and, in the very act ofconveying it to his bosom, found himself face to face with--herhusband.Did you ever see two duellists cross rapiers?
How unlike a theatrical duel! How smooth and quiet the brightblades are! they glide into contact. They are polished andslippery, yet they hold each other. So these two men's eyes met,and fastened: neither spoke: each searched the other's face keenly.Raynal's countenance, prepared as he was for this meeting, was likea stern statue's. The other's face flushed, and his heart raged andsickened at sight of the man, that, once his comrade and benefactor,was now possessor of the woman he loved. But the figures of bothstood alike haughty, erect, and immovable, face to face.Colonel Raynal saluted Colonel Dujardin ceremoniously. ColonelDujardin returned the salute in the same style."You thought I was in Egypt," said Raynal with grim significancethat caught Dujardin's attention, though he did not know quite howto interpret it.He answered mechanically, "Yes, I did.""I am sent here by General Bonaparte to take a command," explainedRaynal."You are welcome. What command?""Yours.""Mine?" cried Dujardin, his forehead flushing with mortification andanger. "What, is it not enough that you take my"-- He stoppedthen.
"Come, colonel," said the other calmly, "do not be unjust to an oldcomrade. I take your demi-brigade; but you are promoted toRaimbaut's brigade. The exchange is to be made to-morrow.""Was it then to announce to me my promotion you came to myquarters?" and Camille looked with a strange mixture of feelings athis old comrade."That was the first thing, being duty, you know.""What? have you anything else to say to me, then?""I have.""Is it important? for my own duties will soon demand me.""It is so important that, command or no command, I should have comefurther than the Rhine to say it to you."Let a man be as bold as a lion, a certain awe still waits upon doubtand mystery; and some of this vague awe crept over Camille Dujardinat Raynal's mysterious speech, and his grave, quiet, significantmanner.
Had he discovered something, and what? For Josephine's sake, morethan his own, Camille was on his guard directly.Raynal looked at him in silence a moment.
"What?" said he with a slight sneer, "has it never occurred to youthat I MUST have a serious word to say to you? First, let me putyou a question: did they treat you well at my house? at the chateaude Beaurepaire?""Yes," faltered Camille."You met, I trust, all the kindness and care due to a woundedsoldier and an officer of merit. It would annoy me greatly if Ithought you were not treated like a brother in my house."Colonel Dujardin writhed inwardly at this view of matters. He couldnot reply in few words. This made him hesitate.
His inquisitor waited, but, receiving no reply, went on, "Well,colonel, have you shown the sense of gratitude we had a right tolook for in return? In a word, when you left Beaurepaire, had yourconscience nothing to reproach you with?"Dujardin still hesitated. He scarcely knew what to think or what tosay. But he thought to himself, "Who has told him? does he knowall?""Colonel Dujardin, I am the husband of Josephine, the son of Madamede Beaurepaire, and the brother of Rose. You know very well whatbrings me here. Your answer?""Colonel Raynal, between men of honor, placed as you and I are, fewwords should pass, for words are idle. You will never prove to methat I have wronged you: I shall never convince you that I have not.Let us therefore close this painful interview in the way it is sureto close. I am at your service, at any hour and place you please.""And pray is that all the answer you can think of?" asked Raynalsomewhat scornfully."Why, what other answer can I give you?""A more sensible, a more honest, and a less boyish one. Who doubtsthat you can fight, you silly fellow? haven't I seen you? I wantyou to show me a much higher sort of courage: the courage to repaira wrong, not the paltry valor to defend one.""I really do not understand you, sir. How can I undo what is done?""Why, of course you cannot. And therefore I stand here ready toforgive all that is past; not without a struggle, which you don'tseem to appreciate."Camille was now utterly mystified. Raynal continued, "But of courseit is upon condition that you consent to heal the wound you havemade. If you refuse--hum! but you will not refuse.""But what is it you require of me?" inquired Camille impatiently."Only a little common honesty. This is the case: you have seduced ayoung lady.""Sir!" cried Camille angrily.
"What is the matter? The word is not so bad as the crime, I takeit. You have seduced her, and under circumstances-- But we won'tspeak of them, because I am resolved to keep cool. Well, sir, asyou said just now, it's no use crying over spilled milk; you can'tunseduce the little fool; so you must marry her.""M--m--marry her?" and Dujardin flushed all over, and his heartbeat, and he stared in Raynal's face."Why, what is the matter again? If she has played the fool, it waswith you, and no other man: it is not as if she was depraved. Come,my lad, show a little generosity! Take the consequences of your ownact--or your share of it--don't throw it all on the poor feeblewoman. If she has loved you too much, you are the man of all othersthat should forgive her. Come, what do you say?"This was too much for Camille; that Raynal should come and demand ofhim to marry his own wife, for so he understood the proposal. Hestared at Raynal in silence ever so long, and even when he spoke itwas only to mutter, "Are you out of your senses, or am I?"At this it cost Raynal a considerable effort to restrain his wrath.
However, he showed himself worthy of the office he had undertaken.He contained himself, and submitted to argue the matter. "Why,colonel," said he, "is it such a misfortune to marry poor Rose? Sheis young, she is lovely, she has many good qualities, and she wouldhave walked straight to the end of her days but for you."Now here was another surprise for Dujardin, another mystification.
"Rose de Beaurepaire?" said he, putting his hand to his head, as ifto see whether his reason was still there."Yes, Rose de Beaurepaire--Rose Dujardin that ought to be, and thatis to be, if you please.""One word, monsieur: is it of Rose we have been talking all thistime?"Raynal nearly lost his temper at this question, and the cold,contemptuous tone with which it was put; but he gulped down his ire.
"It is," said he."One question more. Did she tell you I had--I had"--"Why, as to that, she was in no condition to deny she had fallen,poor girl; the evidence was too strong. She did not reveal herseducer's name; but I had not far to go for that.""One question more," said Dujardin, with a face of anguish. "Is itJos--is it Madame Raynal's wish I should marry her sister?""Why, of course," said Raynal, in all sincerity, assuming thatnaturally enough as a matter of course; "if you have any respect forHER feelings, look on me as her envoy in this matter."At this Camille turned sick with disgust; then rage and bitternessswelled his heart. A furious impulse seized him to expose Josephineon the spot. He overcame that, however, and merely said, "Shewishes me to marry her sister, does she? very well then, I decline."Raynal was shocked. "Oh," said he, sorrowfully, "I cannot believethis of you; such heartlessness as this is not written in your face;it is contradicted by your past actions.""I refuse," said Dujardin, hastily; and to tell the truth, not sorryto inflict some pain on the honest soldier who had unintentionallydriven the iron so deep into his own soul."And I," said Raynal, losing his temper, "insist, in the name of mydear Josephine"--"Perdition!" snarled Dujardin, losing his self-command in turn."And of the whole family.""And I tell you I will never marry her. Upon my honor, never.""Your honor! you have none. The only question is would you rathermarry her--or die.""Die, to be sure.""Then die you shall.""Ah!" said Dujardin; "did I not tell you we were wasting time?
"Let us waste no more then. WHEN and WHERE?""At the rear of the commander-in-chief's tent; when you like.""This afternoon, then--at five.""At five.""Seconds?""What for?""You are right. They are only in the way of men who carry sabres;and besides the less gossip the better. Good-by, till five," andthe two saluted one another with grim ceremony; and Raynal turned onhis heel.Camille stood transfixed; a fierce, guilty joy throbbed in hisheart. His rival had quarrelled with him, had insulted him, hadchallenged him. It was not his fault. The sun shone bright nowupon his cold despair. An hour ago life offered nothing. A fewhours more, and then joy beyond expression, or an end of all. Deathor Josephine! Then he remembered that this very Josephine wished tomarry him to Rose. Then he remembered Raynal had saved his life.
Cold chills crossed his breaking heart. Of all that could happen tohim death alone seemed a blessing without alloy.He stood there so torn with conflicting passions, that he notedneither the passing hours nor the flying bullets.
He was only awakened from his miserable trance by the even tread ofsoldiers marching towards him; he looked up and there were severalofficers coming along the edge of the trench, escorted by acorporal's guard.He took a step or two to meet them. After the usual salutes, one ofthe three colonels delivered a large paper, with a large seal, toDujardin. He read it out to his captains and lieutenants, who hadassembled at sight of the cocked hats and full uniforms.