"Neither will a few words with me.""Oh, no, dear friend. Only I think I should have liked a littlewalk this evening.""Josephine," said the doctor quietly, "when you were a child I savedyour life.""I have often heard my mother speak obitcoin vault latest newsf it. I was choked by thecroup, and you had the courage to lance my windpipe.""Had I?" said the doctor, with a smile. He added gravely, "It seemsthen that to be cruel is sometimes kindness. It is the nature ofmen to love those whose life they save.""And they love you.""Well, our affection is not perfect. I don't know which is most toblame, but after all these years I have failed to inspire you withconfidence." The doctor's voice was sad, and Josephine's bosompanted.
The scheme found favor at once, and Tim Weeks was soon recognized as organizer and leader of the peculiar style of serenade contemplated. After his day's work was over, he rode here and there summbitcoin halving listoning congenial spirits. The project soon became pretty well known in several families, but the elder members remained discreetly blind and deaf, proposing to wink at what was going on, yet take no compromising part themselves. Lemuel Weeks winked very knowingly and suggestively. He kept within such bounds, however, as would enable him to swear that he knew nothing and had said nothing, but his son had never felt more assured of his father's sympathy. When at last the motley gathering rendezvoused at Tim's house, Weeks, senior, was conveniently making a call on a near neighbor.It was Saturday evening, and the young May moon would furnish sufficient light without revealing identity too clearly. About a score of young fellows and hired farm-hands of the ruder sort came riding and trudging to Weeks' barn, where there was a barrel of cider on tap. Here they blackened their faces with charcoal and stimulated their courage, for it was well known that Holcroft was anything but lamblike when angered.
"He'll be like a bull in a china shop," remarked Tim, "but then there's enough of us to handle him if he gets too obstrep'rous."Armed with tin pans and horns which were to furnish the accompaniment to their discordant voices, they started about eight in the evening. As they moved up the road there was a good deal of coarse jesting and bravado, but when they approached the farmhouse silence was enjoined. After passing up the lane they looked rather nervously at the quiet dwelling softly outlined in the moonlight. A lamp illumined the kitchen window, and Tim Weeks whispered excitedly, "He's there. Let's first peek in the window and then give 'em a scorcher."Knowing that they should have the coming day in which to rest, Holcroft and Alida had busied themselves with outdoor matters until late. She had been planning her flower beds, cutting out the dead wood from some neglected rosebushes and shrubbery, and had also helped her husband by sowing seed in the kitchen garden back of the house. Then, weary, yet pleased with the labor accomplished, they made a very leisurely supper, talking over garden matters and farm prospects in general. Alida had all her flower seeds on the table beside her, and she gloated over them and expatiated on the kind of blossoms they would produce with so much zest that Holcroft laughingly remarked, "I never thought that flowers would be one of the most important crops on the place.""You will think so some day. I can see, from the expression of your eyes, that the cherry blossoms and now the apple blows which I put on the table please you almost as much as the fruit would.""Well, it's because I notice 'em. I never seemed to notice 'em much before."
"Oh, no! It's more than that," she replied, shaking her head. "Some people would notice them, yet never see how pretty they were.""Then they'd be blind as moles."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."Attack by the army to-morrow upon all the lines. Attack of thebastion St. Andre this evening. The 22d, the 24th, and 12thbrigades will furnish the contingents; the operation will beconducted by one of the colonels of the second division, to beappointed by General Raimbaut.""Aha!" sounded a voice like a trombone at the reader's elbow. "I amjust in the nick of time. When, colonel, when?""At five this evening, Colonel Raynal.""There," said Raynal, in a half-whisper, to Dujardin; "could theychoose no hour but that?""Do not be uneasy," replied Dujardin, under his breath. Heexplained aloud--"the assault will not take place, gentlemen; thebastion is mined.""What of that? half of them are mined. We will take our engineersin with us," said Raynal.
"Such an assault will be a useless massacre," resumed Dujardin. "Ireconnoitred the bastion last night, and saw their preparations forblowing us to the devil; and General Raimbaut, at my request, iseven now presenting my remarks to the commander-in-chief, andenforcing them. There will be no assault. In a day or two we shallblow the bastion, mines, and all into the air."At this moment Raynal caught sight of a gray-haired officer comingat some distance. "There IS General Raimbaut," said he. "I will goand pay my respects to him." General Raimbaut shook his handwarmly, and welcomed him to the army. They were old and warmfriends. "And you are come at the right time," said he. "It willsoon be as hot here as in Egypt."Raynal laughed and said all the better.General Raimbaut now joined the group of officers, and entered atonce in the business which had brought him. Addressing himself toColonel Dujardin, first he informs that officer he had presented hisobservations to the commander-in-chief, who had given them theattention they merited.
Colonel Dujardin bowed."But," continued General Raimbaut, "they are overruled by imperiouscircumstances, some of which he did not reveal; they remain in hisown breast. However, on the eve of a general attack, which hecannot postpone, that bastion must be disarmed, otherwise it wouldbe too fatal to all the storming parties. It is a painfulnecessity." He added, "Tell Colonel Dujardin I count greatly on thecourage and discipline of his brigade, and on his own wisemeasures."Colonel Dujardin bowed. Then he whispered in the other's ear, "Bothwill alike be wasted."The other colonels waved their hats in triumph at the commander-in-chief's decision, and Raynal's face showed he looked on Dujardin asa sort of spoil-sport happily defeated.
"Well, then, gentlemen," said General Raimbaut, "we begin bysettling the contingents to be furnished by your several brigades.Say, an equal number from each. The sum total shall be settled byColonel Dujardin, who has so long and ably baffled the bastion atthis post."Colonel Dujardin bowed stiffly and not very graciously. In hisheart he despised these old fogies, compounds of timidity andrashness.
"So, how many men in all, colonel?" asked General Raimbaut."The fewer the better," replied the other solemnly, "since"--andthen discipline tied his tongue."I understand you," said the old man. "Shall we say eight hundredmen?""I should prefer three hundred. They have made a back door to thebastion, and the means of flight at hand will put flight into theirheads. They will pick off some of our men as we go at them. Whenthe rest jump in they will jump out, and"-- He paused."Why, he knows all about it before it comes," said one of thecolonels naively.
"I do. I see the whole operation and its result before me, as I seethis hand. Three hundred men will do.""But, general," objected Raynal, "you are not beginning at thebeginning. The first thing in these cases is to choose the officerto command the storming party.""Yes, Raynal, unquestionably; but you must be aware that is apainful and embarrassing part of my duty, especially after ColonelDujardin's remarks.""Ah, bah!" cried Raynal. "He is prejudiced. He has been digging athundering long mine here, and now you are going to make his childuseless. We none of us like that. But when he gets the colors inhis hand, and the storming column at his back, his misgivings willall go to the wind, and the enemy after them, unless he has beencommitting some crime, and is very much changed from what I knew himfour years ago.""Colonel Raynal," said one of the other colonels, politely butfirmly, "pray do not assume that Colonel Dujardin is to lead thecolumn; there are three other claimants. General Raimbaut is toselect from us four.""Yes, gentlemen, and in a service of this kind I would feel gratefulto you all if you would relieve me of that painful duty.""Gentlemen," said Dujardin, with an imperceptible sneer, "thegeneral means to say this: the operation is so glorious that hecould hardly without partiality assign the command to either of usfour claimants. Well, then, let us cast lots."The proposal was received by acclamation."The general will mark a black cross on one lot, and he who draws itwins the command."The young colonels prepared their lots with almost boyish eagerness.
These fiery spirits were sick to death of lying and skulking in thetrenches. They flung their lots into the hat. After them, whoshould approach the hat, lot in hand, but Raynal. Dujardininstantly interfered, and held his arm as he was in the act ofdropping in his lot."What is the matter?" said Raynal, sharply.
"This is our affair, Colonel Raynal. You have no command in thisarmy.""I beg your pardon, sir, I have yours.""Not till to-morrow.""Why, you would not take such a pettifogging advantage of an oldcomrade as that.""Tell him the day ends at twelve o'clock," said one of the colonelsinterested by this strange strife."Ah!" cried Raynal, triumphantly; "but no," said he, altering histone, "let us leave that sort of argument to lawyers. I have come agood many miles to fight with you, general; and now you must decideto pay me this little compliment on my arrival, or put a bitteraffront on me--choose!"While the old general hesitated, Camille replied, "Since you takethat tone there can be but one answer. You are too great a creditto the French army for even an apparent slight to be put on youhere. The rule, I think, is, that one of the privates shall holdthe hat.--Hallo! Private Dard, come here--there--hold this hat.""Yes, colonel.--Lord, here is my young mistress's husband!""Silence!"And they began to draw, and, in the act of drawing, a change ofmanner was first visible in these gay and ardent spirits.