Then he turned to Thurlow to say, "We've had reports eth address networkin now about both Snacklit and Sellwell, and if I'd taken the bet you offered I'm afraid you'd have lost.
"Partridges, mamma! What next?""Pheasants, I hobitcoin atm near me new yorkpe," cried the doctor, gayly. "And after themhares; to conclude with royal venison. Permit me, ladies." And heset himself to carve with zeal.Now nature is nature, and two pair of violet eyes brightened anddwelt on the fragrant and delicate food with demure desire; for allthat, when Aubertin offered Josephine a wing, she declined it. "Nopartridge?" cried the savant, in utter amazement.
"Not to-day, dear friend; it is not a feast day to-day.""Ah! no; what was I thinking of?""But you are not to be deprived," put in Josephine, anxiously. "Wewill not deny ourselves the pleasure of seeing you eat some.""What!" remonstrated Aubertin, "am I not one of you?"The baroness had attended to every word of this. She rose from herchair, and said quietly, "Both you and he and Rose will be so goodas to let me see you eat.""But, mamma," remonstrated Josephine and Rose in one breath."Je le veux," was the cold reply.These were words the baroness uttered so seldom that they werelittle likely to be disputed.The doctor carved and helped the young ladies and himself.When they had all eaten a little, a discussion was observed to begoing on between Rose and her sister. At last Aubertin caught thesewords, "It will be in vain; even you have not influence enough forthat, Rose.""We shall see," was the reply, and Rose put the wing of a partridgeon a plate and rose calmly from her chair. She took the plate andput it on a little work-table by her mother's side. The otherspretended to be all mouths, but they were all ears. The baronesslooked in Rose's face with an air of wonder that was not veryencouraging. Then, as Rose said nothing, she raised heraristocratic hand with a courteous but decided gesture of refusal.
Undaunted Rose laid her palm softly on the baroness's shoulder, andsaid to her as firmly as the baroness herself had just spoken,--"Il le veut."The baroness was staggered. Then she looked with moist eyes at thefair young face, then she reflected. At last she said, with anexquisite mixture of politeness and affection, "It is his daughterwho has told me 'Il le veut.' I obey."Rose returning like a victorious knight from the lists, saucilyexultant, and with only one wet eyelash, was solemnly kissed andpetted by Josephine and the doctor.Thus they loved one another in this great, old, falling house.But Josephine begged to be excused, feared it would be hardlydelicate; and said languidly that for her part she felt they were ingood hands, and prescribed patience. The baroness acquiesced, andpoor Rose and her curiosity were baffled on every side.
At last, one fine day, her torments were relieved without anyfurther exertion on her part. Jacintha bounced into the drawing-room with a notice that the commandant wanted to speak to Josephinea minute out in the Pleasaunce."How droll he is," said Rose; "fancy sending in for a young ladylike that. Don't go, Josephine; how, he would stare.""My dear, I no more dare disobey him than if I was one of hissoldiers." And she laid down her work, and rose quietly to do whatshe was bid."Well," said Rose, superciliously, "go to your commanding officer.And, O Josephine, if you are worth anything at all, do get out ofhim what that Edouard has settled."Josephine kissed her, and promised to try. After the firstsalutation, there was a certain hesitation about Raynal whichJosephine had never seen a trace of in him before; so, to put him athis ease, and at the same time keep her promise to Rose, she askedtimidly if their mutual friend had been able to suggest anything.
"What! don't you know that I have been acting all along upon hisinstructions?" answered Raynal."No, indeed! and you have not told us what he advised.""Told you? why, of course not; they were secret instructions. Ihave obeyed one set, and now I come to the other; and there is thedifficulty, being a kind of warfare I know nothing about.""It must be savage warfare, then," suggested the lady politely.
"Not a bit of it. Now, who would have thought I was such a coward?"Josephine was mystified; however, she made a shrewd guess. "Do youfear a repulse from any one of us? Then, I suppose, you meditatesome extravagant act of generosity.""Not I.""Of delicacy, then.""Just the reverse. Confound the young dog! why is he not here tohelp me?""But, after all," suggested Josephine, "you have only to carry outhis instructions.""That is true! that is true! but when a fellow is a coward, apoltroon, and all that sort of thing."This repeated assertion of cowardice on the part of the livingDamascus blade that stood bolt-upright before her, struck Josephineas so funny that she laughed merrily, and bade him fancy it was onlya fort he was attacking instead of the terrible Josephine; whom nonebut heroes feared, she assured him.This encouragement, uttered in jest, was taken in earnest. Thesoldier thanked her, and rallied visibly at the comparison. "Allright," said he, "as you say, it is only a fort--so--mademoiselle!""Monsieur!""Hum! will you lend me your hand for a moment?""My hand! what for? there," and she put it out an inch a minute. Hetook it, and inspected it closely."A charming hand; the hand of a virtuous woman?""Yes," said Josephine as cool as a cucumber, too sublimely andabsurdly innocent even to blush."Is it your own?""Sir!" She blushed at that, I can tell you.
"Because if it was, I would ask you to give it me. (I've fired thefirst shot anyway.)"Josephine whipped her hand off his palm, where it lay like creamspilt on a trencher."Ah! I see; you are not free: you have a lover.""No, no!" cried Josephine in distress; "I love nobody but my motherand sister: I never shall.""Your mother," cried Raynal; "that reminds me; he told me to askher; by Jove, I think he told me to ask her first;" and Raynal upwith his scabbard and was making off.Josephine begged him to do nothing of the kind."I can save you the trouble," said she.
"Ah, but my instructions! my instructions!" cried the militarypedant, and ran off into the house, and left Josephine "plantedthere," as they say in France.Raynal demanded a private interview of the baroness so significantlyand unceremoniously that Rose had no alternative but to retire, butnot without a glance of defiance at the bear. She ran straight,without her bonnet, into the Pleasaunce to slake her curiosity atJosephine. That young lady was walking pensively, but turned atsight of Rose, and the sisters came together with a clash of tongues.
"O Rose! he has"--"Oh!"So nimbly does the female mind run on its little beaten tracks, thatit took no more than those syllables for even these innocent youngwomen to communicate that Raynal had popped.Josephine apologized for this weakness in a hero. "It wasn't hisfault," said she. "It is your Edouard who set him to do it.""My Edouard? Don't talk in that horrid way: I have no Edouard. Yousaid 'no' of course.""Something of the kind.""What, did you not say 'no' plump?""I did not say it brutally, dear.""Josephine, you frighten me. I know you can't say 'no' to any one;and if you don't say 'no' plump to such a man as this, you might aswell say 'yes.'""Well, love," said Josephine, "you know our mother will relieve meof this; what a comfort to have a mother!"They waited for Raynal's departure, to go to the baroness. They hadto wait a long time. Moreover, when he did leave the chateau hecame straight into the Pleasaunce. At sight of him Rose seizedJosephine tight and bade her hold her tongue, as she could not say"no" plump to any one. Josephine was far from raising any objectionto the arrangement.
"Monsieur," said Rose, before he could get a word out, "even if shehad not declined, I could not consent."Raynal tapped his forehead reflectively, and drew forth from memorythat he had no instructions whatever to ask HER consent.She colored high, but returned to the charge."Is her own consent to be dispensed with too? She declined thehonor, did she not?""Of course she did; but this was anticipated in my instructions. Iam to be sure and not take the first two or three refusals.""O Josephine, look at that insolent boy: he has found you out.""Insolent boy!" cried Raynal; "why, it is the referee of your ownchoosing, and as well behaved a lad as ever I saw, and a zealousofficer.""My kind friends," put in Josephine with a sweet languor, "I cannotlet you quarrel about a straw.""It is not about a straw," said Raynal, "it is about you.""The distinction involves a compliment, sir," said Josephine; thenshe turned to Rose, "Is it possible you do not see Monsieur Raynal'sstrange proposal in its true light? and you so shrewd in general.He has no personal feeling whatever in this eccentric proceeding: hewants to make us all happy, especially my mother, without seeming tolay us under too great an obligation. Surely good-nature was nevercarried so far before; ha, ha! Monsieur, I will encumber you with myfriendship forever, if you permit me, but farther than that I willnot abuse your generosity.""Now look here, mademoiselle," began Raynal bluntly, "I did startwith a good motive at first, that there's no denying. But, since Ihave been every day in your company, and seen how good and kind youare to all about you, I have turned selfish; and I say to myself,what a comfort such a wife as you would be to a soldier! Why, onlyto have you to write letters home to, would be worth half a fellow'spay. Do you know sometimes when I see the fellows writing theirletters it gives me a knock here to think I have no one at all towrite to."Josephine sighed."So you see I am not so mighty disinterested. Now, mademoiselle,you speak so charmingly, I can't tell what you mean: can't tellwhether you say 'no' because you could never like me, or whether itis out of delicacy, and you only want pressing. So I say no more atpresent: it is a standing offer. Take a day to consider. Take twoif you like. I must go to the barracks; good-day.""Oh! this must be put an end to at once," said Rose."With all my heart," replied Josephine; "but how?""Come to our mother, and settle that," said the impetuous sister,and nearly dragged the languid one into the drawing-room.
To their surprise they found the baroness walking up and down theroom with unusual alacrity for a person of her years. She no soonercaught sight of Josephine than she threw her arms open to her withjoyful vivacity, and kissed her warmly. "My love, you have savedus. I am a happy old woman. If I had all France to pick from Icould not have found a man so worthy of my Josephine. He is brave,he is handsome, he is young, he is a rising man, he is a good son,and good sons make good husbands--and--I shall die at Beaurepaire,shall I not, Madame the Commandante?"Josephine held her mother round the neck, but never spoke. After asilence she held her tighter, and cried a little."What is it?" asked the baroness confidentially of Rose, but withoutshowing any very profound concern.
"Mamma! mamma! she does not love him.""Love him? She would be no daughter of mine if she loved a man atsight. A modest woman loves her husband only.""But she scarcely knows Monsieur Raynal.""She knows more of him than I knew of your father when I marriedhim. She knows his virtues and appreciates them. I have heard her,have I not, love? Esteem soon ripens into love when they are oncefairly married.""Mother, does her silence then tell you nothing? Her tears--arethey nothing to you?""Silly child! These are tears that do not scald. The sweet soulweeps because she now for the first time sees she will have to leaveher mother. Alas! my eldest, it is inevitable. Mothers are notimmortal. While they are here it is their duty to choose goodhusbands for their daughters. My youngest, I believe, has chosenfor herself--like the nation. But for my eldest I choose. We shallsee which chooses the best. Meantime we stay at Beaurepaire, thanksto my treasure here.""Josephine! Josephine! you don't say one word," cried Rose indismay."What CAN I say? I love my mother and I love you. You draw medifferent ways. I want you to be both happy.""Then if you will not speak out I must. Mother, do not deceiveyourself: it is duty alone that keeps her silent: this match isodious to her.""Then we are ruined. Josephine, is this match odious to you?""Not exactly odious: but I am very, very indifferent.""There!" cried Rose triumphantly.
"There!" cried the baroness in the same breath, triumphantly. "Sheesteems his character; but his person is indifferent to her: inother words, she is a modest girl, and my daughter; and let me tellyou, Rose, that but for the misfortunes of our house, both mydaughters would be married as I was, without knowing half as much oftheir husbands as Josephine knows of this brave, honest, generous,filial gentleman.""Well, then, since she will not speak out, I will. Pity me: I loveher so. If this stranger, whom she does not love, takes her awayfrom us, he will kill me. I shall die; oh!"Josephine left her mother and went to console Rose.The baroness lost her temper at this last stroke of opposition.
"Now the truth comes out, Rose; this is selfishness. Do not deceiveYOURself--selfishness!""Mamma!""You are only waiting to leave me yourself. Yet your eldest sister,forsooth, must be kept here for you,--till then." She added moregently, "Let me advise you to retire to your own room, and examineyour heart fairly. You will find there is a strong dash of egoismin all this.""If I do"--"You will retract your opposition.""My heart won't let me; but I will despise myself, and be silent."And the young lady, who had dried her eyes the moment she wasaccused of selfishness, walked, head erect, from the room.Josephine cast a deprecating glance at her mother. "Yes, my angel!"said the latter, "I was harsh. But we are no longer of one mind,and I suppose never shall be again.""Oh, yes, we shall. Be patient! Mother--you shall not leaveBeaurepaire."The baroness colored faintly at these four last words of herdaughter, and hung her head.Josephine saw that, and darted to her and covered her with kisses.That day the doctor scolded them both. "You have put your motherinto a high fever," said he; "here's a pulse; I do wish you would bemore considerate."The commandant did not come to dinner as usual. The evening passedheavily; their hearts were full of uncertainty.
"We miss our merry, spirited companion," said the baroness with agrim look at Rose. Both young ladies assented with ludicrouseagerness.That night Rose came and slept with Josephine, and more than onceshe awoke with a start and seized Josephine convulsively and heldher tight.
Accused of egoism! at first her whole nature rose in arms againstthe charge: but, after a while, coming as it did from so revered aperson, it forced her to serious self-examination. The poor girlsaid to herself, "Mamma is a shrewd woman. Am I after all deceivingmyself? Would she be happy, and am I standing in the way?" In themorning she begged her sister to walk with her in the park, so thatthey might be safe from interruption.There, she said sadly, she could not understand her own sister.
"Why are you so calm and cold, while am I in tortures of anxiety?Have you made some resolve and not confided it to your Rose?""No, love," was the reply; "I am scarce capable of a resolution; Iam a mere thing that drifts.""Let me put it in other words, then. How will this end?""I hardly know.""Do you mean to marry Monsieur Raynal, then? answer me that.""No; but I should not wonder if he were to marry ME.""But you said 'no.'""Yes, I said 'no' once.""And don't you mean to say it again, and again, and again, tillkingdom come?""What is the use? you heard him say he would not desist any themore, and I care too little about the matter to go on persisting,and persisting, and persisting.""Why not, if he goes on pestering, and pestering, and pestering?""Ah, he is like you, all energy, at all hours; but I have so littlewhere my heart is unconcerned: he seems, too, to have a wish! Ihave none either way, and my conscience says 'marry him!'""Your conscience say marry one man when you love another?""Heaven forbid! Rose, I love no one: I HAVE loved; but now my heartis dead and silent; only my conscience says, 'You are the cause ofall your mother's trouble; you are the cause that Beaurepaire wassold. Now you can repair that mischief, and at the same time make abrave man happy, our benefactor happy.' It is a great temptation: Ihardly know why I said 'no' at all; surprise, perhaps--or to pleaseyou, pretty one."Rose groaned: "Are you then worth so little that you would throwyourself away on a man who does not love you, nor want you, and isquite as happy single?""No; not happy; he is only stout-hearted and good, and thereforecontent; and he is a character that it would be easy--in short, Ifeel my power here: I could make that man happy; he has nobody towrite to even, when he is away--poor fellow!""I shall lose all patience," cried Rose; "you are at your old trick,thinking of everybody but yourself: I let you do it in trifles, butI love you too well to permit it when the happiness of your wholelife is at stake. I must be satisfied on one point, or else thismarriage shall never take place: just answer me this; if CamilleDujardin stood on one side, and Monsieur Raynal on the other, andboth asked your hand, which would you take?""That will never be. Whose? Not his whom I despise. Esteem mightripen into love, but what must contempt end in?"This reply gave Rose great satisfaction. To exhaust all awkwardcontingencies, she said, "One question more, and I have done.
Suppose Camille should turn out--be not quite--what shall I say--inexcusable?"At this unlucky gush, Josephine turned pale, then red, then paleagain, and cried eagerly, "Then all the world should not part us.Why torture me with such a question? Ah! you have heard something."And in a moment the lava of passion burst wildly through its thinsheet of ice. "I was blind. This is why you would save me fromthis unnatural marriage. You are breaking the good news to me bydegrees. There is no need. Quick--quick--let me have it. I havewaited three years; I am sick of waiting. Why don't you speak? Whydon't you tell me? Then I will tell YOU. He is alive--he is well--he is coming. It was not he those soldiers saw; they were so faroff. How could they tell? They saw a uniform but not a face.Perhaps he has been a prisoner, and so could not write; could notcome: but he is coming now. Why do you groan? why do you turn pale?ah! I see; I have once more deceived myself. I was mad. He I loveis still a traitor to France and me, and I am wretched forever. Oh!
that I were dead! oh! that I were dead! No; don't speak to me:never mind me; this madness will pass as it has before, and leave mea dead thing among the living. Ah! sister, why did you wake me frommy dream? I was drifting so calmly, so peacefully, so dead, andpainless, drifting over the dead sea of the heart towards the livingwaters of gratitude and duty. I was going to make more than oneworthy soul happy; and seeing them happy, I should have been contentand useful--what am I now?--and comforted other hearts, and diedjoyful--and young. For God is good; he releases the meek andpatient from their burdens."With this came a flood of tears; and she leaned against a bough withher forehead on her arm, bowed like a wounded lily.
"Accursed be that man's name, and MY tongue if ever I utter it againin your hearing!" cried Rose, weeping bitterly. "You are wiser thanI, and every way better. O my darling, dry your tears! Here hecomes: look! riding across the park.""Rose," cried Josephine, hastily, "I leave all to you. ReceiveMonsieur Raynal, and decline his offer if you think proper. It isyou who love me best. My mother would give me up for a house; foran estate, poor dear.""I would not give you for all the world.""I know it. I trust all to you.""Well, but don't go; stay and hear what I shall say.""Oh, no; that poor man is intolerable to me NOW. Let me avoid hissight, and think of his virtues."Rose was left alone, mistress of her sister's fate. She put herhead into her hands and filled with anxiety and sudden doubt.Like a good many more of us, she had been positive so long as thedecision did not rest with her. But with power comes responsibility,with responsibility comes doubt. Easy to be an advocate inre incerta; hard to be the judge. And she had but a few secondsto think in; for Raynal was at hand. The last thing in hermind before he joined her was the terrible power of that baseCamille over her sister. She despaired of curing Josephine, but ahusband might. There's such divinity doth hedge a husband ininnocent girls' minds.
"Well, little lady," began Raynal, "and how are you, and how is mymother-in-law that is to be--or is not to be, as your sisterpleases; and how is SHE? have I frightened her away? There were twopetticoats, and now there is but one.""She left me to answer you.""All the worse for me: I am not to your taste.""Do not say that," said Rose, almost hysterically."Oh! it is no sacrilege. Not one in fifty likes me.""But I