He proposed a walk, since his interference had lost her one. Sheyielded a cold assent. This vexed him, but he took it for grantedit would wear off before the end of the walk. Edouard's heartbounded, but he loved her too sincerely to be happy bitcoin euro echtzeitunless he couldsee her happy too; the malicious thing saw this, or perhaps knew itby instinct, and by means of this good feeling of his she revengedherself for his tyranny. She tortured him as only a woman cantorture, and as even she can torture only a worthy man, and one wholoves her. In the course of that short walk this inexperiencedgirl, strong in the instincts and inborn arts of her sex, drove pinsand needles, needles and pins, of all sorts and sizes, through herlover's heart.
"Ysolana dailyes.""Well, then, she can't stay," he began decidedly. "This is your home, and no one shall make you uncomfortable--"
"But I should be a great deal more uncomfortable if she didn't stay," Alida interrupted. "I should feel that I did not deserve my home. Not long ago my heart was breaking because I was friendless and in trouble. What could I think of myself if I did not entreat you in behalf of this poor child?""Thunder!" ejaculated Holcroft. "I guess I was rather friendless and troubled myself, and I didn't know the world had in it such a good friend as you've become, Alida. Well, well! You've put it in such a light that I'd be almost tempted to take the mother, also.""No," she replied, laughing; "we'll draw the line at the mother.""Well, I'll take Jane to town this afternoon, and if her mother will sign an agreement to leave us all in peace, we'll give up our old cozy comfort of being alone. I suppose it must be a good deed, since it's so mighty hard to do it," he concluded with a wry face, leading the way to the kitchen again. She smiled as if his words were already rewarding her self denial."Well, Jane," he resumed, "Mrs. Holcroft has spoken in your behalf, and if we can arrange matters so that you can stay, you will have her to thank chiefly. I'll take you back to the poorhouse after dinner, so it may be known what's become of you. Then, if your mother'll sign an agreement to make no trouble and not come here, we'll give you a home until we can find a better place for you."
There was no outburst of gratitude. The repressed, dwarfed nature of the child was incapable of this, yet there was an unwonted little thrill of hope in her heart. Possibly it was like the beginning of life in a seed under the first spring rays of the sun. She merely nodded to Holcroft as if the matter had been settled as far as it could be, and ignored Alida."Why don't you thank Mrs. Holcroft?" he asked.This awkward, embarrassing delirium was interrupted by Josephine'sreturn. She now held another purse in her hand, and quietly pouredthe rest of the coin into it. She then, with a blush, requested himto take back the money.
At that he found his tongue. "No, no," he cried, and put up hishands in supplication. "Ladies, do let me speak ONE word to you.Do not reject my friendship. You are alone in the world; yourfather is dead; your mother has but you to lean on. After all, I amyour neighbor, and neighbors should be friends. And I am yourdebtor; I owe you more than you could ever owe me; for ever since Icame into this neighborhood I have been happy. No man was ever sohappy as I, ever since one day I was walking, and met for the firsttime an angel. I don't say it was you, Mademoiselle Rose. It mightbe Mademoiselle Josephine.""How pat he has got our names," said Rose, smiling."A look from that angel has made me so good, so happy. I used tovegetate, but now I live. Live! I walk on wings, and tread onroses. Yet you insist on declining a few miserable louis d'or fromhim who owes you so much. Well, don't be angry; I'll take themback, and throw them into the nearest pond, for they are really nouse to me. But then you will be generous in your turn. You willaccept my devotion, my services. You have no brother, you know;well, I have no sisters; let me be your brother, and your servantforever."At all this, delivered in as many little earnest pants as there weresentences, the water stood in the fair eyes he was looking into sopiteously.Josephine was firm, but angelical. "We thank you, MonsieurRiviere," said she, softly, "for showing us that the world is stillembellished with hearts like yours. Here is the money;" and sheheld it out in her creamy hand.
"But we are very grateful," put in Rose, softly and earnestly."That we are," said Josephine, "and we beg to keep the purse as asouvenir of one who tried to do us a kindness without mortifying us.
And now, Monsieur Riviere, you will permit us to bid you adieu."Edouard was obliged to take the hint. "It is I who am theintruder," said he. "Mesdemoiselles, conceive, if you can, my prideand my disappointment." He then bowed low; they courtesied low tohim in return; and he retired slowly in a state of mixed feelingindescribable.With all their sweetness and graciousness, he felt overpowered bytheir high breeding, their reserve, and their composure, in asituation that had set his heart beating itself nearly out of hisbosom. He acted the scene over again, only much more adroitly, andconcocted speeches for past use, and was very hot and very cold byturns.I wish he could have heard what passed between the sisters as soonas ever he was out of earshot. It would have opened his eyes, andgiven him a little peep into what certain writers call "the sex.""Poor boy," murmured Josephine, "he has gone away unhappy.""Oh, I dare say he hasn't gone far," replied Rose, gayly. "Ishouldn't if I was a boy."Josephine held up her finger like an elder sister; then went on tosay she really hardly knew why she had dismissed him."Well, dear," said Rose, dryly, "since you admit so much, I must sayI couldn't help thinking--while you were doing it--we were letting'the poor boy' off ridiculously cheap.""At least I did my duty?" suggested Josephine, inquiringly.
"Magnificently; you overawed even me. So now to business, as thegentlemen say. Which of us two takes him?""Takes whom?" inquired Josephine, opening her lovely eyes."Edouard," murmured Rose, lowering hers.Josephine glared on the lovely minx with wonder and comical horror."Oh! you shall have him," said Rose, "if you like. You are theeldest, you know.""Fie!""Do now; TO OBLIGE ME.""For shame! Rose. Is this you? talking like that!""Oh! there's no compulsion, dear; I never force young ladies'
inclinations. So you decline him?""Of course I decline him.""Then, oh, you dear, darling Josephine, this is the prettiestpresent you ever made me," and she kissed her vehemently.Josephine was frightened now. She held Rose out at arm's lengthwith both hands, and looked earnestly into her, and implored her notto play with fire. "Take warning by me."Rose recommended her to keep her pity for Monsieur Riviere, "who hadfallen into nice hands," she said. That no doubt might remain onthat head, she whispered mysteriously, but with much gravity andconviction, "I am an Imp;" and aimed at Josephine with herforefinger to point the remark. For one second she stood andwatched this important statement sink into her sister's mind, thenset-to and gambolled elfishly round her as she moved stately andthoughtful across the grass to the chateau.
Two days after this a large tree was blown down in Beaurepaire park,and made quite a gap in the prospect. You never know what a bigthing a leafy tree is till it comes down. And this ill wind blewEdouard good; for it laid bare the chateau to his inquiringtelescope. He had not gazed above half an hour, when a femalefigure emerged from the chateau. His heart beat. It was onlyJacintha. He saw her look this way and that, and presently Dardappeared, and she sent him with his axe to the fallen tree. Edouardwatched him hacking away at it. Presently his heart gave a violentleap; for why? two ladies emerged from the Pleasaunce and walkedacross the park. They came up to Dard, and stood looking at thetree and Dard hacking it, and Edouard watched them greedily. Youknow we all love to magnify her we love. And this was a delightfulway of doing it. It is "a system of espionage" that prevails underevery form of government. How he gazed, and gazed, on his now polarstar; studied every turn, every gesture, with eager delight, andtried to gather what she said, or at least the nature of it.But by and by they left Dard and strolled towards the other end ofthe park. Then did our astronomer fling down his tube, and comerunning out in hopes of intercepting them, and seeming to meet themby some strange fortuity. Hope whispered he should be blessed witha smile; perhaps a word even. So another minute and he was runningup the road to Beaurepaire. But his good heart was doomed to bediverted to a much humbler object than his idol; as he came near thefallen tree he heard loud cries for help, followed by groans ofpain. He bounded over the hedge, and there was Dard hanging overhis axe, moaning. "What is the matter? what is the matter?" criedEdouard, running to him.
"Oh! oh! cut my foot. Oh!"Edouard looked, and turned sick, for there was a gash right throughDard's shoe, and the blood welling up through it. But, recoveringhimself by an effort of the will, he cried out, "Courage, my lad!don't give in. Thank Heaven there's no artery there. Oh, dear, itis a terrible cut! Let us get you home, that is the first thing.Can you walk?""Lord bless you, no! nor stand neither without help."Edouard flew to the wheelbarrow, and, reversing it, spun a lot ofbillet out. "Ye must not do that," said Dard with all the energy hewas capable of in his present condition. "Why, that is Jacintha'swood."--"To the devil with Jacintha and her wood too!" criedEdouard, "a man is worth more than a fagot. Come, I shall wheel youhome: it is only just across the park."With some difficulty he lifted him into the barrow. Luckily he hadhis shooting-jacket on with a brandy-flask in it: he administered itwith excellent effect.The ladies, as they walked, saw a man wheeling a barrow across thepark, and took no particular notice; but, as Riviere was making forthe same point they were, though at another angle, presently thebarrow came near enough for them to see Dard's head and arms in it.Rose was the first to notice this. "Look! look! if he is notwheeling Dard in the barrow now.""Who?""Can you ask? Who provides all our excitement?"Josephine instantly divined there was something amiss. "Consider,"said she, "Monsieur Riviere would not wheel Dard all across the parkfor amusement."Rose assented; and in another minute, by a strange caprice of fate,those Edouard had come to intercept, quickened their pace tointercept him. As soon as he saw their intention he thrilled allover, but did not slacken his pace. He told Dard to take his coatand throw it over his foot, for here were the young ladies coming."What for?" said Dard sulkily. "No! let them see what they havedone with their little odd jobs: this is my last for one while. Isha'n't go on two legs again this year."The ladies came up with them.
"O monsieur!" said Josephine, "what is the matter?""We have met with a little accident, mademoiselle, that is all.Dard has hurt his foot; nothing to speak of, but I thought he wouldbe best at home."Rose raised the coat which Riviere, in spite of Dard, had flung overhis foot.
"He is bleeding! Dard is bleeding! Oh, my poor Dard. Oh! oh!""Hush, Rose!""No, don't put him out of heart, mademoiselle. Take another pull atthe flask, Dard. If you please, ladies, I must have him homewithout delay.""Oh yes, but I want him to have a surgeon," cried Josephine. "Andwe have no horses nor people to send off as we used to have.""But you have me, mademoiselle," said Edouard tenderly. "Me, whowould go to the world's end for you." He said this to Josephine,but his eye sought Rose. "I'm a famous runner," he added, a littlebumptiously; "I'll be at the town in half an hour, and send asurgeon up full gallop.""You have a good heart," said Rose simply.He bowed his blushing, delighted face, and wheeled Dard to hiscottage hard by with almost more than mortal vigor. How softly, hownobly, that frolicsome girl could speak! Those sweet words rang inhis ears and ran warm round and round his heart, as he straightenedhis arms and his back to the work. When they had gone about ahundred yards, a single snivel went off in the wheelbarrow. Fiveminutes after, Dard was at home in charge of his grandmother, hisshoe off, his foot in a wet linen cloth; and Edouard, his coat tiedround the neck, squared his shoulders, and ran the two short leaguesout. He ran them in forty minutes, found the surgeon at home, toldthe case, pooh-poohed that worthy's promise to go to the patientpresently, darted into his stable, saddled the horse, brought himround, saw the surgeon into the saddle, started him, dined at therestaurateur's, strolled back, and was in time to get a good look atthe chateau of Beaurepaire just as the sun set on it.
Jacintha came into Dard's cottage that evening."So you have been at it, my man," cried she cheerfully and ratherroughly, then sat down and rocked herself, with her apron over herhead. She explained this anomalous proceeding to his grandmotherprivately. "I thought I would keep his heart up anyway, but you seeI was not fit."Next morning, as Riviere sat writing, he received an unexpectedvisit from Jacintha. She came in with her finger to her lips, andsaid, "You prowl about Dard's cottage. They are sure to go and seehim every day, and him wounded in their service.""Oh, you good girl! you dear girl!" cried Edouard.
She did not reply in words, but, after going to the door, returnedand gave him a great kiss without ceremony. "Dare say you know whatthat's for," said she, and went off with a clear conscience andreddish cheeks.Dard's grandmother had a little house, a little land, a littlemoney, and a little cow. She could just maintain Dard and herself,and her resources enabled Dard to do so many little odd jobs forlove, yet keep his main organ tolerably filled."Go to bed, my little son, since you have got hashed," said she.--"Bed be hanged," cried he. "What good is bed? That's a silly oldcustom wants doing away with. It weakens you: it turns you intotrain oil: it is the doctor's friend, and the sick man's bane. Manya one dies through taking to bed, that could have kept his life ifhe had kept his feet like a man. If I had cut myself in two I wouldnot go to bed,--till I go to the bed with a spade in it. No! sit uplike Julius Caesar; and die as you lived, in your clothes: don'tstrip yourself: let the old women strip you; that is their delightlaying out a chap; that is the time they brighten up, the oldsorceresses." He concluded this amiable rhapsody, the latter partof which was levelled at a lugubrious weakness of his grandmother'sfor the superfluous embellishment of the dead, by telling her it wasbad enough to be tied by the foot like an ass, without settling downon his back like a cast sheep. "Give me the armchair. I'll sit init, and, if I have any friends, they will show it now: they willcome and tell me what is going on in the village, for I can't getout to see it and hear it, they must know that."Seated in state in his granny's easy-chair, the loss of which afterthirty years' use made her miserable, she couldn't tell why, leSieur Dard awaited his friends.They did not come.
The rain did, and poured all the afternoon. Night succeeded, andsolitude. Dard boiled over with bitterness. "They are a lot ofpigs then, all those fellows I have drunk with at Bigot's andSimmet's. Down with all fair-weather friends."The next day the sun shone, the air was clear, and the sky blue."Ah! let us see now," cried Dard.
Alas! no fellow-drinkers, no fellow-smokers, came to console theirhurt fellow. And Dard, who had boiled with anger yesterday, was nowsad and despondent. "Down with egotists," he groaned.About three in the afternoon came a tap at the door.
"Ah! at last," cried Dard: "come in!"The door was slowly opened, and two lovely faces appeared at thethreshold. The demoiselles De Beaurepaire wore a tender look ofinterest and pity when they caught sight of Dard, and on the oldwoman courtesying to them they courtesied to her and Dard. The nextmoment they were close to him, one a little to his right, the otherto his left, and two pair of sapphire eyes with the mild lustre ofsympathy playing down incessantly upon him. How was he? How had heslept? Was he in pain? Was he in much pain? tell the truth now.Was there anything to eat or drink he could fancy? Jacintha shouldmake it and bring it, if it was within their means. A prince couldnot have had more solicitous attendants, nor a fairy king lovelierand less earthly ones.
He looked in heavy amazement from one to the other. Rose bent, andwas by some supple process on one knee, taking the measure of thewounded foot. When she first approached it he winced: but the nextmoment he smiled. He had never been touched like this--it wascontact and no contact--she treated his foot as the zephyr theviolets--she handled it as if it had been some sacred thing. By thehelp of his eye he could just know she was touching him. Presentlyshe informed him he was measured for a list shoe: and she would runhome for the materials. During her absence came a timid tap to thedoor; and Edouard Riviere entered. He was delighted to seeJosephine, and made sure Rose was not far off. It was Dard who letout that she was gone to Beaurepaire for some cloth to make him ashoe. This information set Edouard fidgeting on his chair. He sawsuch a chance as was not likely to occur again. He rose withfeigned nonchalance, and saying, "I leave you in good hands; angelvisitors are best enjoyed alone," slowly retired, with a deepobeisance. Once outside the door, dignity vanished in alacrity; heflew off into the park, and ran as hard as he could towards thechateau. He was within fifty yards of the little gate, when sureenough Rose emerged. They met; his heart beat violently."Mademoiselle," he faltered."Ah! it is Monsieur Riviere, I declare," said Rose, coolly; all overblushes though."Yes, mademoiselle, and I am so out of breath. MademoiselleJosephine awaits you at Dard's house.""She sent you for me?" inquired Rose, demurely.
"Not positively. But I could see I should please her by coming foryou; there is, I believe, a bull or so about.""A bull or two! don't talk in that reckless way about such things.She has done well to send you; let us make haste.""But I am a little out of breath.""Oh, never mind that! I abhor bulls.""But, mademoiselle, we are not come to them yet, and the faster wego now the sooner we shall.""Yes; but I always like to get a disagreeable thing over as soon aspossible," said Rose, slyly.
"Ah," replied Edouard, mournfully, "in that case let us make haste."After a little spurt, mademoiselle relaxed the pace of her ownaccord, and even went slower than before. There was an awkwardsilence. Edouard eyed the park boundary, and thought, "Now what Ihave to say I must say before we get to you;" and being thusimpressed with the necessity of immediate action, he turned to lead.Rose eyed him and the ground, alternately, from under her longlashes.
At last he began to color and flutter. She saw something wascoming, and all the woman donned defensive armor."Mademoiselle.""Monsieur.""Is it quite decided that your family refuse my acquaintance, myservices, which I still--forgive me--press on you? Ah! MademoiselleRose, am I never to have the happiness of--of--even speaking toyou?""It seems so," said Rose, ironically.